A year ago, Fremont High’s Tyrone Phillips was Coach Sam Sullivan’s pet project.
Even though he was a junior, Phillips spent an entire league season playing for the junior varsity. Then, he was brought up to the varsity for the City Section 4-A division playoffs and helped Fremont reach the semifinal round.
Phillips, however, went from project to prodigy this season. Friday night, he scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Pathfinders to a 65-48 victory over Los Angeles in the City Section 3-A division championship game before a crowd of 9,000 at the Sports Arena.
“He has unlimited potential,” Sullivan said of Phillips, a 6-foot-5 senior. “I don’t think he’s even scratched the surface yet.”
Phillips also limited the effectiveness of Los Angeles’ 6-10 senior center Adam Henderson, who had 15 points.
The victory gave Fremont its first City title since a 55-36 win over Crenshaw in 1975. It was also the 16th consecutive victory for the Pathfinders, whose previous loss was to Los Angeles, 73-70, in a December tournament game.
Fremont (26-3), the top-seeded team in the division, used its swarming press to take a 44-38 lead through three quarters. Los Angeles turned the ball over 27 times in the first three quarters and 34 times overall.
Los Angeles (17-9) cut its deficit to four points on a basket by Emile Bigelow with 7:30 to play, but Fremont then went on a 7-0 run to take a 51-40 lead.
After Henderson made two free throws with 5:25 left to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to nine, Fremont scored the next six points--including an acrobatic basket by sophomore swingman Chris Ford, who drove the length of the court and made an underhanded scoop shot that gave the Pathfinders a 57-42 lead.
Ford, who collided with teammate Lionel Pandy in practice Wednesday and was taken to the hospital--where he received six stitches--scored 12 points. Pandy, a junior guard, finished with 15 points.
Phillips scored 11 points in the second half, repeatedly driving against the Los Angeles front line, which measures 6-10, 6-8 and 6-6 across. At the same time, he played tough defense against Henderson, who scored only two points in the fourth quarter as Fremont took control.
“I played real bad the last time,” Phillips said in reference to Fremont’s tournament loss to the Romans. “I really felt that if we lost again this time, it would probably be my fault.”
Los Angeles was making its first championship-game appearance since 1953.