Westchester High might have more players capable of the spectacular than any other team in the state.
And Friday night against five-time defending City Section 4-A champion Crenshaw, the Comets’ athleticism was on display at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
USC-bound forward David Bluthenthal had several rim-rattling dunks and point guard Brandon Granville put on a passing and ballhandling clinic for the crowd of more than 5,000.
But Westchester’s 93-78 semifinal victory was largely a result of outstanding free-throw shooting during the pivotal second quarter. The Comets made 15 of 18 attempts from the line during the quarter, including 12 during a 16-4 run that turned a 22-22 tie into a 38-26 lead with two minutes left in the first half. The Comets extended their lead to 15 points by halftime and 23 early in the third quarter and never looked back.
Westchester (25-3) will play Manual Arts, a 61-46 winner Friday night over Fremont, next Friday in the championship game at the Sports Arena.
“This might be the first time all season that we played four good quarters,” said Granville, who transferred to Westchester from St. Bernard in Playa del Rey. “Even though I wasn’t here last year, I felt the vibe. Our guys wanted revenge.”
And with good reason.
Crenshaw (20-3), the two-time defending state Division I champion, eliminated Westchester from the playoffs twice in the previous three years. Last year, the Cougars defeated Westchester, 87-70, in the 4-A championship game.
“We had to get them back,” said Westchester forward Tony Bland, who scored 15 points.
Bluthenthal did much of the damage, scoring 31 points.
Guard Brandon Hawkins scored 33 points for Crenshaw, but the 16-time City champions struggled all night from the perimeter and got too far behind to catch the surging Comets.
“They were a little deeper than we expected,” Hawkins said. “They just played a good ballgame.”
Hawkins scored 14 points in a frenetic first quarter that ended in a 20-20 tie.
But Bluthenthal and Chris Osborne each made four free throws, Albert Miller made two and Granville added two more during a four-minute stretch of the second quarter. The Comets led, 47-32, at halftime.
Westchester started the third quarter with an 8-0 run to go up by 23 and the Cougars never got closer than 12 points.