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Harbor Cagers Top Compton,, Using Defense in Clutch

The Harbor College basketball team didn’t like its No. 10 ranking (in Southern California) before tonight’s game against third-ranked Compton College, and the Seahawks still don’t, especially after upsetting Compton, 89-79, in much more of an edge-of-the-seat contest than the final score suggests.

Compton (11-4), which holds a 3-1 mark against Harbor (9-6) since 1984, was coming off an upset victory over first-ranked El Camino and expected an easier game. But Harbor would have none of it.

“They’re supposed to be better than us,” said Harbor guard Mike Thompson, who consistently pressured the Compton guard and scored two of his four points in the final seconds when Harbor pressed Compton into game-costing mistakes. “We get no respect and we knew that coming in. They are good and physical but we knew we were quicker, and we knew if we did the fundementals the coach taught us we knew we could beat them.”

At times the Seahawks lost track of fundamentals. But down the stretch first-year Coach Ken Curry stressed defense, and his team responded, turning a 74-71 deficit with four minutes remaining in the game into 83-79 advantage with 44 seconds left.

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The game was still in doubt at that point, but forward Jerome Hendrix and guard Mark Hill hit layups after Harbor’s full-court press upset Compton’s catch-up efforts, and the Tartars ran out of time.

“We didn’t play defense well, but I felt coming in that we could defend them,” Curry said.

Curry credited his defensive wizard, co-coach Jim White, for making defense the Seahawks’ first priority.

“I always stressed defense wherever I was, and with White sitting here it just makes it a lot easier,” he said. “We use a lot of his stuff. At all the timeouts he’s hollering about defense and I’m saying it to the team. We can score. We didn’t even play well and we still got 89 points, so defense is gonna be the key.”

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Curry’s and White’s defensive messages didn’t always strike home. With 10 minutes left, Compton cut a seven-point Harbor lead to three by scoring four unanswered points on breakaway layups.

Curry quickly called timeout and warned his team that Compton was about to take away a game the Seahawks had led most of the way.

Curry’s team responded, as Compton was whistled for goal tending on a fast break lay-in by Harbor’s Fred Rhodes and then Hill quickly rebounded a Hendrix miss for an easy hoop.

Compton pulled even at 67 on Vincent Camper’s steal and subsequent layup with six minutes to go. Tartar forward Greg Armstrong made another steal one minute later for and everything was even again at 71.

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Compton’s Gilbert Miller, a 6-foot-1 guard from Flint Southwestern High in Flint, Mich. then lit up the crowd with three-pointer from the top of the key, but the Tartars never led after that.

Camper, No. 44, led all scorers with 30 points. Miller had 23 and Compton’s Adrian Jackson, from Lynwood High, hit for 10.

Hill, Harbor’s No. 44, pumped in a team-leading 27 points. Hill also contributed 10 rebounds, as the Seahawks out-rebounded the Tartars, 45-23.

Hendrix had 24 points and six rebounds. Harbor’s Tolbert Routt, a 6-foot-5, 170 pound sophomore from Texas, led all big men with 13 rebounds. Seahawk Mike Lee from Banning pulled down 9 caroms and to go with his 13 points.

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