For three quarters, Friday night’s City Section Division I boys’ basketball championship game between Westchester and Woodland Hills Taft was a virtual draw, with the best collection of guards in Los Angeles dueling like gunslingers.
Finally, in the waning minutes, top-seeded Westchester got some decisive rebounds, made some clutch free throws and found a way to give Coach Ed Azzam his 10th City title with a 60-55 victory at the Galen Center.
“We didn’t outplay Taft by any means, but there were a couple rebounds, a couple shots, a couple free throws that went our way,” Azzam said.
Michael Williams, Taft’s senior guard, scored 32 points, making nine of 17 shots and nine of 10 free throws.
“That little kid is hard to guard,” Azzam said.
Williams made five three-point baskets in a sensational individual performance. But Westchester (30-2) countered with its own strong efforts from junior guards Jordin Mayes and Kareem Jamar.
Mayes scored 18 points and connected on a critical three-pointer with 3:42 left that tied the score at 51-51. Jamar had 12 points, including a pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Taft (25-4) had one final chance to tie the score with 26.8 seconds left.
Westchester held a 57-55 lead, but Terran Carter missed both free throws, and the Comets were in control after free throws by Dominique O’Connor and Dwayne Polee.
The victory was particularly satisfying for Azzam because he has truly enjoyed coaching the players on this team from start to finish.
Their chemistry, personalities and work ethic have blended together to put the Comets in position to be a challenger to unbeaten Santa Ana Mater Dei when the state playoffs begin next week.
But Azzam said he and his players will savor winning the City title.
“Their goal the whole year was to get a banner, and I was praying for them because they’ve worked so hard,” he said.
Taft was at a disadvantage in that Justin Hawkins, one of the Toreadors’ top players, played with flu-like symptoms and ended up with nine points.
“I thought their guards were shooting well and they boxed out and got that extra hustle to get to the ball,” Williams said.
Chatsworth 60, Taft 49 -- In the City Section Division I girls’ final, 6-3 McDonald’s All-American Gennifer Brandon scored 24 points and had 15 rebounds to give the Chancellors (23-8) their first City title for Coach Michelle Chevalier.
The score was tied, 26-26, at halftime. Chatsworth led, 37-36, after three quarters but took charge at the outset of the fourth quarter.
Monica Jackson scored 15 points. Rmanii Haynes had 10 points and 10 assists for Taft (18-8).