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City Section Boys' Basketball Playoffs

Birmingham Doesn't Answer the Second-Half Bell, 41-38

3-A Division: Braves allow three-point shooters of top-seeded Eagles to fire away in semifinal loss.

March 01, 1997|FRANK CARULLI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Javier Rodriguez scored 19 points, including five three-pointers, to lead No. 1-seeded Bell High to a 41-38 victory over Birmingham in a City Section 3-A Division semifinal Friday at East Los Angeles College.

The Braves (20-8) led, 20-14, after a sloppily played first half, but could not hold the lead as Bell (25-5) turned up the tempo in the second half.

The Eagles took their first lead, 37-36, with 3:11 to play and never trailed thereafter.

Birmingham knocked the ball loose several times in the final minute but could not gain possession.

Point guard Fahim Hassankhail, who finished with 11 points and four assists for the Braves, threw up a 75-foot shot that hit the rim as time expired.

The turning point came in the third quarter, when Mario Perez and Rodriguez combined for three quick three-pointers.

"The difference in the game was that we let Rodriguez shoot way too much," Birmingham Coach Al Bennett said. "Had we played better defense in the second half, we might have won."

Raymond Kizzee, a 6-foot-3 senior center, scored 19 points for the Braves and had five rebounds. Alex Salas contributed six rebounds and two points.

Forward Emmanuel Evans, a steady force for the Braves all season, was held to two points and five rebounds.

Birmingham, the North Valley League champion and one of the area's most surprising teams, capitalized on several Bell turnovers and missed shots to build an 11-7 lead after one quarter.

The Braves early success was built on six first-quarter points and strong team defense.

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