Great championship games: Dwayne Polee scores 43 points before 14,136 at Sports Arena
With the spring high school sports season canceled, prep columnist Eric Sondheimer is looking back on some of the most memorable championship games in Southern California history.
Reggie Morris Sr., one of the greatest basketball coaches in City Section history, still remembers the moment he sent his Manual Arts team onto the court before a record crowd of 14,136 at the Sports Arena on March 6, 1981, to face Crenshaw in the 4-A championship game.
“I was standing in the foyer,” he said. “Crenshaw goes out first. You hear this big roar. I couldn’t see them, but I could hear. Then our guys go out, and the screaming was so loud, I said, ‘OK, we got this. We have more fans, more energy, more everything.’”
Most importantly, Manual Arts had 6-foot-5 Dwayne Polee, averaging 32.1 points. He turned in the greatest individual performance in City history, making 17 of 20 shots and torching Crenshaw for 43 points in an 82-69 victory.
“His stats were crazy,” Morris said. “He didn’t miss a shot in the second half. He’s the leading scorer in the state and the first thing he does in the opening minute is take a charge. He was going to do everything to win the game.”
Crenshaw, coached by the legendary Willie West, had future UCLA standout Gary Maloncon. The Cougars did what they always do: They pressed and dropped back into a trapping zone defense. But there was no stopping Polee.
“I have a photo of Dwayne dunking over Crenshaw guys,” Morris said. “Dwayne was just going to attack the basket.”
Besides Polee’s performance, the game is remembered for its atmosphere. At the time, the crowd was the largest ever for a high school basketball game. There was screaming and yelling everywhere.
“It was electrifying,” Morris said. “I had kids come up to me when they were in junior high. They said, “That was the first basketball game I ever saw. My father took me. That game made me want to play basketball.’ ”
Polee would go on to play for Pepperdine and was drafted in the third round of the NBA draft in 1986. His son, Dwayne Jr., became the City player of the year at Westchester and a standout at San Diego State.
To this day, Morris says people still talk about the Game.
“They say, ‘I was at the Game.’ That’s how the game has been referred to. The Game.”
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