Coach David Benezra said earlier this week that his Crossroads High School basketball team would pull away from Whittier Christian in the fourth quarter of Saturday's Southern Section 1-A championship game in the Sports Arena. Guard Chris Brown made sure Benezra's prediction came true.
Brown scored 16 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter as Crossroads defeated Whittier Christian, 58-48, for the second consecutive year in the final.
Crossroads, which made a record-tying sixth straight appearance in a Southern Section final, led by only two points after three quarters, 35-33. That's when Brown took over.
Brown, a 6-foot senior, went 5 for 5 from the floor and 6 for 6 from the free-throw line in the final quarter. He single-handedly outscored the Heralds, who scored 15 points in the quarter.
The Roadrunners, who have won four Southern Section titles, finished 23-5. Whittier Christian, which had not lost since its season opener against Lynwood, finished 26-2.
"We knew it would be close, but we knew that gradually we would pull away from them," said Benezra, who is in his first year at Crossroads. "We aimed to beat them in the long haul because of our conditioning. Our conditioning was a key to the game."
Another was the sub-par performance by forward Erik Martin of Whittier Christian. Martin, a 6-5 junior, entered the game averaging 21 points, and he scored 28 in Tuesday's semifinal victory over Chadwick. But against Crossroads, Martin was 3 for 15 from the floor and 5 for 11 from the free-throw line to score with 11 points.
Martin wasn't the only Herald player to struggle. Mike Goodcase, a senior forward who was averaging 15 points, scored only 10 on 5-for-15 shooting from the floor.
"That's what cost us the game," said Bill Cuccia, Whittier Christian coach. "We needed 20 points from both of them. When they shoot like that, we just can't win."
Whittier Christian shot 39% from the floor (21 for 54) and 37.5% from the free-throw line (6 for 16).
Benezra said another factor in Crossroads' victory was that the Roadrunners played a tough nonleague schedule, which included Southern Section 4-A finalist Santa Monica, 3-A finalist Saugus and 5-A semifinalist St. Monica.