You knew West Torrance High's basketball team was on a roll Saturday night when guards Denny Hocking and Phil Bendik, two of the smallest players on the court, hooked up for an alley-oop basket early in the fourth quarter.
Bendik's improbable layup marked a high point in the Warriors' young season, and served notice that there would be a new champion of the Torrance Tournament.
Playing what Coach Dan McGee called "our best ball game," West pulled away down the stretch to capture its first Torrance Tournament title with a 72-51 victory over defending champion St. Monica at South Torrance.
It was the eighth straight win for West, which improved its record to 10-3. St. Monica, a CIF 5-A semifinalist last season, fell to 8-6.
"We stayed with that inside game tonight and it worked again," McGee said. "We have an outside game, too, but we haven't had to use it."
Senior forward Tim Stowe, named the tournament's most valuable player, led the Warriors with 18 points and nine rebounds.
West had three other players named to the all-tournament team--Hocking, Bendik and forward Jason Arquisch. Hocking had 6 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds, Bendik scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and Arquisch added 14 points, all of them coming in the second half.
The Warriors led virtually the entire game, except for the opening minutes when St. Monica grabbed a quick 6-0 advantage.
From there, the Mariners had trouble against West's half-court press and struggled through two cold spells in the first half. They went 4:45 without a point in the first quarter and were scoreless for 4:43 of the second quarter.
"West's press slowed the game down," said St. Monica Coach Leo Klemm. "We didn't respond as well as we should have. We usually do a better job against the press, so it's to their credit. West played a good game."
Stowe, working well inside, scored six points of a 12-0 run that gave West the lead for good, 12-6, in the first quarter. McGee credited his team's press for turning the game around in such a short period of time.
"When you press a quick team like that, you don't always know how it's going to work," he said. "I thought our press and our 1-2-2 zone defense were real effective."
West also applied a box-and-one defense on St. Monica's high-scoring guard, Jason Joe, in the second half. The senior finished with 18 points, but scored only two in the fourth quarter when West outscored the Mariners, 26-16.
In other action:
Hawthorne 46, Compton 38--Guard Randy Lavender scored 20 points to lead the Cougars (5-4) in the third-place game of the Torrance Tournament.
El Segundo 60, Mira Costa 46--Junior forward Shawn Foster led all scorers with 23 points to help the Eagles (5-5) win the fifth-place final.
South Torrance 58, Torrance 46--The Spartans made 17 of 21 free throws in the fourth quarter to pull away in the consolation final. Kevin Root led South (5-6) with 15 points.