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Bishop Brooks powers Taft to playoff win, setting up showdown with Westchester

Taft coach Derrick Taylor talks to his team during a timeout Friday night against King/Drew.
Taft coach Derrick Taylor talks to his team during a timeout Friday night in a 66-43 win over King/Drew in the City Section Open Division playoffs.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)
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For 23 seasons, Derrick Taylor has been roaming the Woodland Hills Taft basketball sideline, usually with arms folded and a piercing stare when he doesn’t like what he sees. There are spots of gray visible on his chin. The Toreadors have won three City Section titles during his tenure and are known for producing top players, from Jordan Farmar to Larry Drew Jr.

Since the COVID-19 season in 2020-21, Taylor’s teams haven’t been competing at the highest level. Players have come and gone, and he has been searching for someone to restore the Toreadors’ legacy. He might have found that person in 6-foot-4 junior guard Bishop Brooks, a transfer from Sun Valley Village Christian.

In Friday’s City Section Open Division playoff opener, Brooks scored the first eight points of the third quarter to put to rest any thoughts of a King/Drew comeback and finished with 22 points to help the No. 4-seeded Toreadors (19-10) blow out the Coliseum League champions 66-43.

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Crenshaw High guard AJ Robinson and some teammates built stamina running cross country in fall. They’ll be tested in City boys’ basketball playoffs.

Feb. 8, 2023

The Toreadors advance to next Saturday’s semifinals at Pasadena City College, where they will face surprising Westchester, the No. 8 seed.

The Comets stunned top-seeded Harbor City Narbonne 60-56 with junior varsity coach Akil Reese and varsity assistant Tim Varnell directing the team in the absence of suspended coach Dewitt Cotton.

Brooks has been under the radar while the focus has been on Keyon Kensie Jr., who’s averaging 25 points. He scored 17 points Friday. And there’s 6-7 sophomore Adam Grissom, another player receiving attention. But it’s time to pay attention to Brooks, who scored 14 points in the third quarter after Taft opened a 31-15 halftime lead.

“Not many have a third option as good as Brooks,” Taylor said.

Brooks doesn’t mind when others single out Kensie and Grissom for their dunks.

Defending champion Corona Centennial started Southern Section Open Division pool play with a 68-63 home triumph over Bronny James and Sierra Canyon.

Feb. 10, 2023

“It’s all good,” he said. “It’s taking pressure off me. My time will come.”

Donald Thomspon had 15 points and Josh Rivas 14 for King/Drew.

In other boys’ basketball playoff games:

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Westchester received 19 points from Mike Hill and 10 apiece from Jonathan Choyce and Angel Corona in its upset of Narbonne.

Fairfax held off Crenshaw 74-71 behind 27 points from Darius Carr to advance to the other Open Division semifinal against Lake Balboa Birmingham, which defeated San Pedro 77-64. Freshman Caleb Newton scored 21 points for Birmingham.

In the Southern Section Open Division, Studio City Harvard-Westlake received 24 points from Brady Dunlap in a 69-57 win over Playa del Rey St. Bernard. Santa Clarita West Ranch held off Bellflower St. John Bosco 55-53. Andrew Meadow had 17 points for West Ranch.

A look at the top 25 high school boys’ basketball teams in the Southland at the conclusion of the regular season.

Feb. 6, 2023

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame secured a 71-63 win over Torrance Bishop Montgomery. Dusty Stromer had 20 points, Caleb Foster 18 and Mercy Miller 17.

In Division 1, 6-11 sophomore center Nate Garcia continued his exceptional play with a 29-point performance to lead La Verne Damien over Ontario Colony 62-49. Etiwanda defeated Oak Park 53-45. Curtis Williams scored 15 points. Owen Verna made nine of 11 three-pointers to lead Santa Ana Mater Dei to an 88-61 win over Irvine Crean Lutheran. Aidan Fowler scored 23 points in San Juan Capistrano JSerra’s 48-45 win over Rolling Hills Prep.

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Jason Crowe Jr. of Lynwood scored 47 points, giving him 1,032 points this season, four points short of the record for most scored by a freshman. Lynwood defeated La Quinta 102-49 in 5AA.

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