Westchester defeats Newark Memorial for sixth state basketball title


Four months of high school basketball action came to a close Saturday night, and the state Division I championship game affirmed what had been known from the beginning: Westchester High is the best team in California.

The Comets (32-3) won their sixth state title with a 63-56 win over Newark Memorial at Rabobank Arena.

As usual, it was Westchester’s strength at guard that couldn’t be overcome. Kareem Jamar, Jordin Mayes and Denzel Douglas delivered a Division I title in their junior season, and with another year of experience they were even better. Jamar had 16 points, Douglas 12 and Mayes 11.

Jamar made two jumpers, Mayes connected on two jumpers and Douglas made a three-pointer to help the Comets take a 30-18 lead at halftime. Even reserve Tre’vonne Williams got into the action with eight points.

Dwayne Polee, the City Section player of the year, was largely quiet because he picked up two fouls in the first quarter, but he got the crowd excited with two thunderous dunks in the second quarter.

Westchester quickly opened a 16-point lead at the start of the third quarter, then seemed to lose focus. Newark became more aggressive, getting muscle plays inside from Khion Sankey and Isaiah Clark to get within 34-28. The Comets led 41-33 after three quarters.

The Comets are 6-0 in finals under Coach Ed Azzam.

And the players are starting to get attention from college recruiters even though none signed during the early period. Mayes is committed to Arizona; Jamar is committed to Montana; Polee is considering Georgia and UNLV; and 6-foot-9 Reggie Murphy is being pursued by Marquette, Texas Christian and Arizona.

By performing at such a high level all season, this Comets team injects itself into the conversation about whether it’s the best team in Westchester history, challenging the 2001-02 team that went 32-2, won City Section and state championships and included three future NBA players in Trevor Ariza, Bobby Brown and Hassan Adams.

The Comets of 2010 don’t have the absolute quickness or overwhelming talent of some past Westchester teams, but they made up for it with terrific chemistry, unselfishness and versatility.

“This team is definitely one of the teams I’ve enjoyed the most,” said Azzam, who has won 677 games in 31 seasons. “They play well together, try to do whatever I ask them to do, go to class, get decent grades and have good hearts.”

As far as this weekend’s 10 state championship games in Bakersfield, one big surprise was the poor attendance. Friday’s games drew 3,843, and Saturday’s games drew 4,943. Sacramento has drawn more than 20,000 for the two-day event.

“I am disappointed in the attendance,” said Marie Ishida, executive director of the CIF. “But I also realize it takes several years to establish a following.”

The championships are scheduled to return to Arco Arena in Sacramento next season, then will be put up for bidding for 2012 and beyond.