Leave it to Bob Braswell, the master of motivation, to come up with another novel way to inspire his Cleveland High basketball team.
Sometimes he yells. Tuesday he didn’t let out a peep. In Wednesday night’s championship final at the Chaminade tournament, he reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out another adrenal-gland popping winner.
Braswell produced a charcoal-black trophy from 1985, a memento of the Cavaliers’ second-place finish in the tournament. Cleveland duplicated the feat last season, losing to Fairfax for the second year in a row.
“I just wanted them to know we’d finished as the runner-up the last two times out here,” Braswell said, reaching into a brown shopping bag. “So I brought along this trophy from the time we finished second. It was burned up in an office fire at school.”
It also lit a fire under the Cavaliers, who played their best half all season and held off a furious Manual Arts rally to take the Chaminade title, 84-77.
The win didn’t come easily, despite a 24-point lead Cleveland built in the third quarter. This season, the Toilers nearly played the spoiler. It took a near-perfect performance in the first half for Cleveland (8-2) to win the championship trophy against a team that was ranked No. 20 in the nation in one magazine’s preseason poll.
Tuesday night, the Cavaliers turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, but against Manual Arts, Cleveland was nearly perfect, jumping to a 47-29 lead at the half.
Cleveland turned the ball over just three times and made 19 of 37 shots in the first half. Manual Arts, on the other hand, seemed smothered by the Cavaliers’ defense and was just 12 of 32 overall and 3 of 15 in the second quarter, when the Toilers scored only nine points.
When Cleveland’s Adonis Jordan--the tournament MVP--scored a pair of baskets to open the third quarter, Cleveland had taken a 53-29 lead. The Cavaliers extended the lead to 24 at 57-33 with six minutes remaining, but the Toilers (9-2) made a big run behind Chris Small, who came off the bench to score 16 of his 18 points in the third quarter.
Cleveland led, 65-55, after three quarters, but Manual Arts wasn’t finished.
Cleveland went ahead, 77-61, when Manual Arts guard Develle Walker connected from three-point range midway through the fourth. Walker, who scored a game-high 22 points, sparked a hot streak and Manual Arts connected on three more three-point shots to close within 79-73 with 1:10 left.
Manual Arts’ Thurman Watson missed an eight-foot jumper with 40 seconds to play and Cleveland’s Damon Charlot (14 points) controlled the rebound. Cleveland’s Richard Branham iced the game with a pair of free throws with 38 seconds left, giving the Cavaliers an 81-73 lead.
“I was just glad we scored a bunch of points early,” Braswell said. “Manual Arts is a great team, and they showed why they’ve been nationally ranked.”
Cleveland, however, was not included in the same poll. Leave it to Braswell to point out that motivational factor.
“That was something else we talked about,” Braswell said with a smile. “I told them we should beat these guys to show we can play just as well as anybody around.”
Charlot, a 6-3 senior, transferred to Cleveland from Manual Arts after his sophomore year. It’s not hard to believe Braswell mentioned that as well.
“Damon really came through,” Braswell said. “He really got us going early.”
Charlot scored 10 points in the first quarter. Reserve guard Joey Manliguis scored 13 points and forward Warren Harrell added 12.
Chatsworth 92, Santa Paula 47--After taking a 38-27 lead at the half, Chatsworth blew out Santa Paula with 26 points in the third quarter and 28 in the fourth in the consolation bracket’s third-place game.
Chatsworth was led by 6-2 senior swingman Erik Merkel, who scored a game-high 23 points. Senior guard David Waco added 19 and senior forward Lance Smith had 13 for the Chancellors. Bryan Addison, the most valuable player of the Sunset League as a football player, scored nine points.
Burbank 59, St. Patrick 54--Mike Nash, a 6-4 senior center, scored 22 points to lead the Bulldogs to seventh place in the championship bracket.
Mark Nielsen, a 6-3 senior, added 17 points for Burbank (9-4), which is ranked 10th in The Times’ Valley poll.
Santa Monica 57, Chaminade 47--Leading, 21-18, at the half, Santa Monica outscored Chaminade, 15-8, in the third quarter to take fifth place in the consolation bracket.
Santa Monica, the defending Southern Section 4-A Division champion, was led by senior forward Keith Neal (17 points) and junior guard Syrus Yarbrough (15).
Chaminade (5-4) was led by senior forward John Carolan’s 14 points.
Calabasas 87, Masada 70--It might only have been for seventh place in the consolation bracket, but Jon Drezner and Sean Obusek of Calabasas played like they were in the championship final.
Drezner, a 6-4 senior, scored a game-high 39 points and Obusek, a senior guard, added 26.