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LOS ANGELES TIMES SPECIAL REPORT : City Times Basketball Playoffs : City Section--Where Local Legends Emerge : Many players who led their teams to titles went on to major college and professional careers. Crenshaw has been the dominant team, winning 11 of 17 championship games since 1971.

February 21, 1993|SEAN WATERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For 45 years, the City Section has crowned basketball champions through a playoff system that provides high school players with the opportunity to become local legends.

Willie (The Whale) Naulls of San Pedro and Billy (The Hill) McGill of Jefferson were two of the most famous players of the 1950s. (Jumpin') Joe Caldwell of Fremont and former UCLA stars Gail Goodrich of Poly, Curtis Rowe of Fremont, and Greg Lee of Reseda were '60s standouts.

Crenshaw won its second title in 1973 with Dorsey transfer Marques Johnson, who later starred at UCLA and in the NBA. In 1980, Darryl Strawberry was a starting forward for Crenshaw while Dodger teammate Eric Davis played basketball for Fremont.

The '80s featured Carson's Eldridge (El Hud) Hudson, Crenshaw's John Williams and Manual Arts' Dwayne Polee.

And while there have been many famous individuals to compete in the City championship game, there also have been standout teams.

Under Coach Willie West, Crenshaw has won 11 City titles in 17 championship game appearances since 1971. The school's 1985 team compiled a 31-0 record, winning City, State and exhibition World titles. Nine seniors from the 1988 City-champion Cougar team received Division I scholarships.

Here is a brief look at City 4-A and 3-A championship games during the past 10 years.

1983

Banning 62, Crenshaw 61--Crenshaw junior John Williams appeared to be unstoppable. In the three games before the final, Williams scored 35, 23 and 28 points.

But Banning Coach Don Nichols designed a defense to slow Williams--or stop him. The 6-foot-8 center managed 23 points, but the game was decided during the final seconds by Banning's Ronnie Barber.

Barber, the quarterback for the Banning football team, made a desperation 25-foot jump shot with two seconds to play to give the Pilots the 4-A championship. It was sweet revenge for Banning and Barber because the school lost to Crenshaw in the semifinals of the football playoffs.

Reseda 54, Canoga Park 41--In the 3-A final, Reseda used five transfers from the inner city to win the school's first championship in any sport. Guard Eugene Jackson was the star, leading a balanced attack with 15 points.

1984

Crenshaw 112, Westchester 59--After being denied the 1983 championship, John Williams--now a forward with the Los Angeles Clippers--came back with a vengeance, scoring 41 points as the Cougars won by the most lopsided score in the tournament's history. In four games, Williams scored 156 points, breaking the 1981 tournament record set by Manual Arts' Dwayne Polee. One of Westchester's star players was Bob Samuelson, who played for the '92 U.S. Olympic volleyball team that won the bronze medal.

Reseda 51, Wilson 39--Eugene Jackson, who later played for Cal State Fullerton, had 14 points and nine assists. Wilson's Anthony Blackmon had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

1985

Crenshaw 73, Manual Arts 62--John Williams departed to Louisiana State, but the Cougars did not miss a beat, winning their eighth title and second in a row under Coach Willie West. The Cougars discovered a new leader in junior guard Stevie Thompson, who averaged 28 points a game to lead the City. In the final, Thompson scored 30, including 17 in the second half, as Crenshaw overcame a 34-33 halftime deficit. Manual Arts was led by Marco Fleming, well-known for his dunking ability.

Fairfax 65, San Pedro 61--Fairfax won its first title when the playoff system began in 1947 and 5-foot guard Al Linnick was the star player. In 1985, 6-foot-7 center Sean Higgins was the most dominating player, averaging 17 points a game. Higgins, a sophomore, scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half as Fairfax took a commanding 11-point lead. But it took four free throws from Lion guard Jerome Jenkins during the final minute to end San Pedro's upset bid.

1986

Crenshaw 95, Cleveland 79--As he grew in stature, Crenshaw's leading scorer preferred a more grown-up name. Little Stevie became Stephen Thompson. His scoring average also matured--to 30 points a game. Cleveland was led by 6-8 forward Trevor Wilson, who had 27 points and 20 rebounds in the final. Wilson played at UCLA and is the school's fourth all-time leading scorer.

In the final, Thompson, who later played at Syracuse, scored 29 points as Crenshaw won its third consecutive title.

Marshall 62, University 47--All-time scoring leader Jerry Simon, a 6-5 forward, and 5-7 Luis Gonzales were too much of an inside and outside scoring combination for University to handle. Simon ended up with 28 points and 17 rebounds and Gonzales had 16 points and nine rebounds.

1987

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