West Torrance's basketball team went to Rolling Hills High on Wednesday night with the hope of establishing itself as the new front-runner in the Bay League.
By the time the Warriors made their way home, they had learned that Rolling Hills and Coach Cliff Warren don't take kindly to visitors.
Once again the Titans were rude hosts as they snapped West's 10-game winning streak with a relatively easy 79-68 victory.
"We believe we can win in this gym," said Warren, whose team owns a 23-1 record at home in the last three seasons. "We get confidence here."
Juniors John Hardy and Mark Tesar may have been Rolling Hills' most confident players.
Hardy, a 6-3 center, dominated the inside and finished with game highs of 31 points and 10 rebounds. Tesar, a 6-2 guard, contributed 23 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. He was especially effective late in the game when the Titans battled foul trouble.
Those individual efforts helped the defending Bay League champions improve to 2-0 in league and 12-4 overall. The Titans lost all five starters from last year's team, but they're still the No. 1 Bay team.
"Fortunately this happened early in league," said West Coach Dan McGee. "We have a chance to get them over at our place."
West, ranked No. 3 in the CIF 3-A Division, dropped to 12-4 overall and 1-1 in league. The Warriors fell behind by 15 points midway through the second quarter and drew no closer than five.
"We missed a lot of easy shots," said McGee, whose team defeated Rolling Hills, 80-79, in the season opener. "We didn't execute the way we normally do. And we didn't play very good defense.
"Rolling Hills played well. They hit the key shots. Their three-pointers hurt us when we were coming back at them."
Three-point shots by Tesar, Steve Clover and Ron Dinnel were a boost for the Titans, ranked No. 5 in CIF 3-A. But they received their biggest spark from Hardy.
The soft-shooting center tore up West in the second quarter when he scored 15 of his team's 20 points to help Rolling Hills take a 37-29 half-time lead.
"Hardy was unstoppable," Warren said. "There's nobody better in the Bay League."
Hardy outplayed West's leading scorer, forward Tim Stowe. The 6-3 senior made only 6 of 14 free-throw attempts and missed several layups in the fourth quarter before finishing with 16 points. Guard Phil Bendik led the Warriors with 17.
"Stowe had a down game," McGee said. "He's normally a better free-throw shooter. I don't know what was wrong with him. It was probably his worst game of the year."
West took the upper hand early when 6-foot point guard Denny Hocking stole the ball and drove three-quarters of the court for a dunk to give the Warriors an 8-7 lead.
But instead of inspiring West, the dunk seemed to have the opposite effect. Rolling Hills, led by Hardy's inside play, answered with a 21-5 spurt to take a 28-13 lead with 4:18 left in the first half.
West cut its deficit to 39-34 early in the third quarter on a layup by Stowe, but Rolling Hills came back with seven straight points--four free throws by forward Stu Talley and a three-point shot by Clover--and maintained about a 10-point lead the rest of the way.
Tesar took over in the fourth quarter, scoring six of the Titans' first eight points of the period on drives to the basket to build the lead to 70-56. They pulled away despite the fact that four players had four fouls.
"We're young, but we're no longer inexperienced," Warren said. "We still have a long way to go. Anybody can beat you in this league."