After losing to Manual Arts twice during the regular season, Westchester rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Toilers, 65-57, and win its first City 4-A Division boys' basketball championship before 10,500 at the Sports Arena Friday night.
LeRoi O'Brien was the big force for Westchester, with 24 points and 10 rebounds. O'Brien scored seven points and James Gray added five in the fourth quarter, in which the Comets completed a rally from a 12-point second-half deficit.
With the victory, Westchester (22-7) qualified for next week's Southern Regional State tournament. Manual Arts (23-4), which won the City title last season, can gain entry as an at-large team.
"We just weren't playing that aggressive inside in the first half," said O'Brien, who will attend Pepperdine next fall. "But once we started to take it inside, things started happening."
Both teams exchanged turnovers and missed open shots to begin the game, with Westchester's zone defense limiting Manual Arts' fast-break offense. Manual Arts led, 16-12, after one quarter, with Dwain Bradberry scoring six points.
In the second quarter, Westchester bounced back behind two turnaround jump shots by O'Brien to take its first lead of the game, 19-18, with 5:49 left. Manual Arts answered with a three-point shot by Roland Merriwether and a breakaway layup by Jason Martin, en route to outscoring Westchester, 13-5, to take a 31-24 lead at halftime.
Manual Arts opened up a 42-30 lead early in the third quarter, with Martin scoring three baskets. But, Westchester's Jason Sanders and O'Brien combined to score 11 points to close the Toilers' lead to 44-42, at the end of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Westchester began to capitalize on Manual Arts' turnovers and took a 55-51 lead with 3:51 remaining. The Comets then outscored Manual Arts, 10-6.
"We didn't play real well in the first half, and they were killing us on the boards," said Westchester Coach Ed Azzam. "We were much more aggressive in the second."