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Chatsworth Hangs On Against Kennedy, 65-55

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Late in the third quarter of Chatsworth High’s 65-55 victory over Kennedy on Friday night, one had to wonder if Kennedy fans might ask for ticket refunds.

With 1 minute 22 seconds left in the period, Chatsworth junior guard Jerome Joseph made a three-point basket that gave the Chancellors a 52-28 lead.

Ballgame. Blowout.

And this was supposed to be a showdown between the Northwest Valley Conference’s two best teams? Refunds, indeed, seemed to be in order.

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But then Kennedy switched to a full-court press, which forced 13 of 20 Chatsworth turnovers down the stretch. Chatsworth (14-4, 5-0 in conference play) hung on, making only two baskets in the fourth quarter.

Kennedy cut the lead from 24 to seven with 1:06 remaining before its comeback bid expired.

Having escaped a near-disaster, it was no time for a Chatsworth player to be predicting a West Valley League championship. But center Eddie Miller did just that.

“This game was real important,” he said. “It clinched first place in league.”

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Chatsworth is 2-0 in league play with six remaining, including a rematch with Kennedy (1-1).

The difference was Joseph, who had 14 of his 23 points in the second half to go with nine assists, and Miller, a 6-foot-7 junior who had 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots.

Miller intimidated Kennedy (12-6, 4-2) in the first half. He made six of seven shots and made Kennedy miss often. The Cougars missed 11 layups in the game, eight in the first half. They missed at least five because of Miller’s hulking presence.

But Chatsworth started to unravel after Miller was called for traveling late in the third quarter. Cougar forward Nakia Gordon scored six of his 13 points on consecutive layups.

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Kennedy trailed, 54-35, entering the fourth quarter, but the Cougars used their quickness to force 10 turnovers in the quarter. Sophomore guard Waking Bailey had six of his eight points in an 11-0 run that cut the lead to 58-50 with 2:28 left. Kennedy twice cut it to seven.

“We changed defenses and made a little comeback, but it might have been too late,” Kennedy Coach Yutaka Shimizu said. “We were too tentative in the first half. And Chatsworth shot well. We didn’t.”

The full-court press all but took Miller out of the game. He had only six points and two blocks in the final 16 minutes.

“They did a great job denying me the ball in the second half,” Miller said. “I think we panicked too much every time we got the ball with somebody in our face.”

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Kennedy’s last gasp came with 38 seconds left. Jelani Janisse (10 points) stole a pass. But a jump shot from the wing by Bailey was off the mark and Chatsworth rebounded. Two free throws by Darrell Mitchell and another by Joseph put the game out reach.

“I knew it would be a tough game,” Miller said. “They’re tough competitors. I love playing against Janisse and Gordon.”

Shimizu was asked if he’d ever tried using the full-court press for the full 32 minutes.

“Never tried it,” he said.

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Might that work the next time the Cougars play Chatsworth?

“I’ll have to look at that,” he said.


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