It was the kind of basketball game Reseda High would have won if it were still playing in the Valley 3-A League.
After trailing by four points at halftime Wednesday at Kennedy, Reseda kicked into overdrive at just the right time and pulled to within two with a minute left in the game.
But the Cougars didn't wilt under Reseda's pressure--the kind of pressure Reseda once wielded with authority in Valley 3-A. Kennedy, despite playing without starting guard Marcus Malone, held on for a 51-47 Valley 4-A League victory.
Reseda moved up to 4-A this season after losing only one Valley 3-A League game the last three years, and winning 3-A City championships in 1982-83 and 1983-84. And the Regents (0-2 in league, 5-5 overall) are finding the new level of competition to be a solid notch better.
"I thought we played them nearly even," Reseda Coach Bill Hughes said. "But it might take some time before we attain the level we were at in the 3-A."
Said Kennedy Coach Yutaka Shimuzu: "The difference between 3-A and 4-A is that teams generally have more depth and there are better athletes in the 4-A."
Kennedy's depth was apparent when guards Marcus Jones and Jeff Newman both made key plays in the absence of Malone, who was held out of the game by Shimuzu for disciplinary reasons. Jones hit two free throws with 44 seconds remaining in the game and an insurance layup at the buzzer to thwart Reseda's late rally. Newman, who replaced Malone in the lineup, hit two foul shots with 2:06 left to give Kennedy a 48-38 lead.
Reseda made its move by scoring nine of 10 points after Newman's free throws. John Wills hit a 10-footer, Stanley Williams made a layup after getting an offensive rebound and Dexter Nickels made two baskets for the Regents. Nickels' second basket, which made the score 49-47, came after Williams made a steal and missed a shot.
Cougar forward Kendall McDaniels was the dominant player in the game, however, with 25 points and seven rebounds. He was 11 of 17 from the floor, including a 12-footer at the buzzer to end the third quarter, which gave Kennedy a 39-30 lead.
Williams had seven steals for Reseda, but only three resulted in baskets. Reseda made only 22 of 66 (33.3%) from the field. In fact, the only way the Regents scored 17 points in the fourth quarter was by taking more shots (26) in that period than in any other. Said Hughes: "One time down the floor we missed five shots in a row, all from less than five feet. You can't work that hard and not score. There is a letdown after something like that."
Kennedy, ranked No. 4 in the Valley by The Times, is 2-1 in league and 7-4 overall. The Cougars lost, 50-49, to highly-touted Fairfax for their only loss in league.