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Chatsworth Chooses a Slow Death

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<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Admittedly, it was never a question of if, but of how much.

When the Chatsworth High basketball team prepared this week to take on Cleveland, ranked No. 2 in the state by one publication, it made no mention of winning. In fact, only 2 goals were set forth, and both centered as much on surviving the Northwest Valley Conference game as anything else.

“We wanted to hold them under 70, which we did,” Chatsworth senior guard Rick Garrick said. “And we wanted to keep the spread in the 20s. We did that.”

Chatsworth, in fact, succeeded in slowing the pace to a crawl, satisfied all of its goals, and still lost, 66-41, at Cleveland on Wednesday.

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The Chancellors came in prepared to lick their wounds after the loss, but not to lick Cleveland’s boots.

“We knew we were pretty much gonna lose,” admitted Garrick, who scored a team-high 11 points. “We just wanted to not let them blow us out, for pride’s sake.”

Chatsworth took a 2-0 lead in the opening minute on a Garrick layin but was never in the game thereafter. Point guard Adonis Jordan scored 14 points in the first quarter and Cleveland took a 20-6 lead.

One could say that the Cavaliers (12-1, 2-0 in league play) never looked back. And they didn’t, or rather, couldn’t. Chatsworth (7-5, 0-2) stayed in front of the Cavaliers’ fast-break attack by keeping plenty of bodies back on defense, between Cleveland and the basket. When Chatsworth attempted free throws, for instance, the remaining 4 Chancellors camped at the Cleveland end of the court, beyond the half-court stripe.

“Of course we didn’t defend any free throws,” Chatsworth Coach Gary Shair said. “What for? What are we gonna do, try to have our 6-foot guy try to outjump their 6-6 guy? All they’d do is beat us back and score the easy ones.”

With the tempo being dictated by Chatsworth, Cleveland instead beat up the Chancellors on defense, forcing 29 turnovers. Cleveland attempted more than twice as many shots as Chatsworth, making 24 of 71 field-goal attempts (33%). Chatsworth made 11 of 28 (39%).

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Maybe Chatsworth had the right idea. Cleveland defeated Canoga Park, 126-29, Friday in the conference opener but responded with its worst showing of the season Wednesday.

“This probably was a low point,” Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell said. “It’s hard to motivate kids when a team isn’t coming in to win.”

Cleveland led, 55-20, after 3 quarters, but the Chancellors scored 21 points in the fourth quarter--more than they had in the previous 24 minutes--to make it respectable.

Some, however, questioned whether Chatsworth deserved respect after its tactics, which in essence ensured a loss.

“It seemed like they knew they were gonna lose and were satisfied to only lose by 30,” Jordan said. “I don’t understand it. I play to win, even if we lose by 60, I play to win.”

Jordan was the lone bright spot in the game, making 7 of 13 field-goal attempts in the first half. Cleveland senior forward Lucious Harris finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds.

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Jordan said that Chatsworth’s game plan played a big role in Cleveland’s sluggish performance.

“Our coaches tell us to play with the same intensity every game, whether it’s Canoga, Chatsworth or Crenshaw,” he said. “That’s hard to do when they go to the four-corners (offense) and they’re down by 30.”

There were few frowns around the Chatsworth bench, however.

“I’m satisfied,” Garrick said. “We reached our goals. They must feel pretty bad, because we feel pretty good. We lost to the No. 2 team in the state by 25--we did our job.”

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