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January 20, 1994|ALAN OTA and SEAN WATERS

SHOOTING COMETS

Although his team beat Manual Arts last week, Westchester Coach Ed Azzam is more concerned about finishing with the best record in the Coastal Conference than where the Comets rank among the City Section powers.

The Comets, ranked No. 3 in the Southland by The Times, beat the Toilers, 86-78, Jan. 12 in a game matching the top teams of the Coastal Conference. The Comets also beat Hamilton, 112-62, Friday.

Westchester (17-3) used an effective pressure defense to prevent the Toilers from developing their inside game. They also made 21 of 24 free throws.

"We put pressure on everyone's guards," Azzam said. "We're all guards. If we don't, our little big men underneath are going to get killed. There are probably 40 L.A. teams who can beat us with their big men."

The Comets have 10 players who are 6-foot-2 or smaller who can run and score. The best is sophomore Danny Walker, who scored 19 points against Manual Arts.

Walker, a 6-foot-1 point guard, leads the team with an 18.2 scoring average. He was the most valuable player in the Artesia tournament.

"He's one of the best players I've ever seen," Azzam said. "He does everything well. He shoots the ball well, he handles the ball well.

"My only complaint is that I wish he would shoot the ball more. He doesn't score as consistently as I would like."

Ben Sanders (14.4 points) and Cullen Countee (13.5 points) also have lived up to their billing as two of the top players in the City Section. Countee, who is recovering from a knee injury, made the all-tournament team in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.

"Cullen has really been playing well," Azzam said. "He settles everyone down and comes up with the big shot during crucial times of the game."

But what makes the Comets special is their depth.

"I have probably 10 guys who can start," Azzam said. "They don't defend as well as I like, but I got a lot of kids who can score, handle the ball and run the press. There's a lot of power coming off the bench."

The Comets expect to be challenged by Fairfax and Venice in the Western League, but their real competition might not come until the City 4-A Division playoffs, when they hope to play defending City champion Crenshaw.

Does Azzam think about Crenshaw?

"I really can't concern myself with (Crenshaw)," Azzam said. "We have to put ourselves in position to win our league championship convincingly. We don't want to play them on their home court."

CARRYING THE TORCH

Genevieve DuBose of Hamilton High has been selected to carry the torch in preparation for the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

DuBose, who won the City girls' cross-country championships, and Humberto Sanchez of South Gate High, the City boys' runner-up, were selected to participate in the Norwegian Torch Relay on Feb. 5 in Oslo, Norway.

Thirty participants from 13 countries, including five U.S. torchbearers, were chosen to carry the flame through a selection program sponsored by Coca-Cola. The International Olympic Torchbearers Program marks the first time in Winter Games' history that runners from outside the host country will participate.

The U.S. runners are among those who will carry the torch more than 8,000 kilometers in 75 days. The relay began Nov. 27 and concludes Feb. 12 with the opening ceremonies in Lillehammer.

FALLING SHORT

Culver City was trailing Redondo by 20 points going into the fourth quarter in an Ocean League game Jan. 11, but pulled to within two points with eight seconds left. The Centaurs had the ball when playmaker Chris Ellison attempted to pass to Louie Baity. The ball went out of bounds and Redondo ran out the clock to win, 87-85.

"We should have beat them," Culver City Coach Jeff Perry said. "If we can play with that type of intensity for four quarters, we would have blown them out. We missed seven uncontested layups and seven free throws. That's 21 points right there. Plus 10 turnovers."

QUICK FAX

Fairfax's Lanell McGrew had 21 points and seven rebounds Friday in a 67-61 loss to Manual Arts, an indication that the 6-3 forward is starting to develop into the type of defensive big man the Lions need. McGrew, who played on the junior varsity last season, has been one of the Lions' better offensive players, but he has been inconsistent defensively.

"We are spending 10 to 15 minutes before and after practice trying to improve his footwork," Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani said. "We're trying to give him more repetition on the various defensive fundamentals."

McGrew and Tomar Yachini were assigned to guard 6-5 forward David Rickenbacker, who scored 18 points. The Lions out-rebounded the Toilers, 31-21, and McGrew made nine of 13 shots.

"We let them shoot 53% from the field," Kitani said. "They made seven three-point shots against us."

VIKINGS CONQUERED

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