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Artesia gets complacent, then delivers

Times Staff Writer

When you’re a high school All-American and your team is in need of a boost in the state championship game, it’s the perfect time to put on a show.

James Harden of Lakewood Artesia decided to intervene when his team’s lead had been cut to six points with 4:26 left in the third quarter.

He proceeded to contribute two three-point plays, two blocked shots, an assist and a rebound during a 12-0 blitz, and the Pioneers went on to a 91-64 victory over Oakland Bishop O’Dowd in the state Division III boys’ final Saturday at Arco Arena.

Harden was almost invisible in the first half, scoring two points as Artesia took a 40-15 lead.

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“We thought the game was over,” he said. “Everybody got relaxed.”

The Pioneers (33-2) seemed to lose intensity and interest while Bishop O’Dowd (26-7) became more aggressive and played without fear. The Dragons pulled the score to 48-37 by halftime and kept up the pressure in the third quarter until Harden stepped up.

“My team told me, ‘We need you,’ so I had to be more aggressive,” he said.

Harden, a 6-foot-5 senior bound for Arizona State, finished with 22 points, including three dunks in the fourth quarter. All five Artesia starters scored in double figures in helping the Pioneers win their second consecutive Division III championship and sixth state title.

Renardo Sidney scored 18 points, Malik Story had 14 points and A.J. Gasporra and Lorenzo McCloud each contributed 13 points.

Brandon Walker, a 6-4 senior, scored 24 points for Bishop O’Dowd.

Artesia’s 91 points equaled the most points scored by a team in state championship history. Los Angeles Crenshaw had the same total in 1994.

North Hollywood Campbell Hall 70, Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman 34 -- Bring on Lakewood Artesia, Santa Ana Mater Dei or Los Angeles Fairfax. That would be the rallying cry of the Vikings, who won their second Division IV state championship in the last three seasons and showed they are no mere small-school power.

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Campbell Hall (33-1) led, 18-4, after the first quarter, 43-19 at halftime and 62-27 after three quarters.

Cardinal Newman (27-8), the school that almost upset Westlake Village Oaks Christian in the state Division III football bowl game, could have used some football players to flex their muscles. Campbell Hall did pretty much whatever it wanted, shooting 63% in the first half and 59% for the game. Cardinal Newman shot 26%.

Jrue Holiday scored 20 points, making nine of 13 shots for the Vikings, and his brother, Justin, had 15 points on seven-for-10 shooting. Robert Ford scored 15 points and Keegan Hornbuckle added 10.

The 36-point margin of victory equaled the largest in state boys’ championship game history, established in 1997 by Baron Davis-led Santa Monica Crossroads with a 93-57 victory over Sacramento Encina.

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The state mercy rule was invoked with less than five minutes left, resulting in a running clock after Campbell Hall’s lead reached 40 points.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com


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