Westchester slips past King/Drew to earn spot in City Section Open Division title game
With 19.1 seconds and down by one point in a Westchester High gym that has 15 City Section championship banners hanging from the wall, King/Drew coach Lloyd Webster called time out. One basket would send the Golden Eagles to the City Section Open Division championship game.
“We had them where we wanted them,” Webster said.
The ball was inbounded to star guard Kalib LaCount close to the baseline under pressure from Westchester’s Zion Sutton. The ball went out of bounds.
“He just slipped,” Sutton said.
That was the final chance for King/Drew to upset the No. 1-seeded Comets. TJ Wainwright made two free throws following a foul. King/Drew was called for an offensive foul with five seconds left. Then Webster picked up a technical and Wainwright made two more free throws for a 59-54 victory.
“He’s done a great job, especially with only six games,” Westchester coach Ed Azzam said of Webster, whose team is 5-1 on the season. “I’d hate to play them after 20 games.”
Said Webster: “It’s hard to win in the Westchester gym.”
Westchester is 11-0 and will try to give Azzam a record-tying 16th City title on Saturday night at home against Lake Balboa Birmingham, which rallied from a 19-point halftime deficit to defeat Fairfax 78-74 in the other semifinal. David Elliott scored 25 points.
Wainwright led Westchester with 20 points. LaCount scored 25 points for King/Drew and Kosy Akametu added 17. Westchester scored at least 15 baskets via layups off of turnovers or wide open players against King/Drew’s not-so-effective zone. Despite that advantage, the Comets were taking too many outside shots, according to Azzam, and lost an eight-point halftime lead.
“It’s a good thing I was wearing a mask so you couldn’t read my lips,” he said.
Westchester players know another City title for Azzam would put him in a tie with the legendary Willie West of Crenshaw for most championships at 16.
“That’s what is on our mind to get that ring,” Wainwright said.
In Southern Section championship games:
Colorado-bound KJ Simpson took charge in the fourth quarter to help West Hills Chaminade go on the road to defeat Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley 53-49. He finished with 26 points, including 15 in the final eight minutes.
“He just took over the game,” coach Bryan Cantwell said of Simpson, who had 12 rebounds.
Chaminade won its first title since 1999, when Cantwell was an assistant on the team. He also has his son on this year’s team. “It’s just awesome and so much fun,” he said.
Rolling Hills Prep received 28 points from Benny Gealer and 17 points from Kenny Manzi to defeat Hacienda Heights Los Altos 67-56. Jazz Gardner had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Los Altos.
Harvey Kitani enjoyed great success building Fairfax into a City Section power until his retirement from teaching and has now led Rolling Hills Prep to prominence. His teams have won four titles in five seasons.
Irvine Crean Lutheran came away with a 68-58 victory over Agoura. Koat Keat finished with 22 points.
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