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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Sylmar Works Birmingham to Win Title, 53-48

City 3-A: Spartans rally from 10-point deficit with defense and inside game in fourth quarter.

March 08, 1998|MICHAEL LAZARUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There was something very blue collar about the way Sylmar High earned its first City Section 3-A boys' basketball championship.

The Spartans held Birmingham without a basket for six minutes in the fourth quarter and without an offensive rebound the entire final quarter in a 53-48 victory before 1,200 at Cal State Los Angeles on Saturday.

Sylmar's rally from a 42-32 deficit late in the third quarter was unconventional.

The Spartans (19-9) took just two three-point shots.

Instead, seventh-seeded Sylmar patiently worked the ball inside, got plenty of second chances on offensive rebounds and shut down the Braves' top scorers, Emmanuel Evans and Stanley Fletcher.

"That's the way we've been playing the whole playoffs," junior forward Dallas Townsend said. "We don't worry about the outside shot, we play our inside game."

Sylmar outrebounded fourth-seeded Birmingham, 14-2, in the fourth quarter, with Townsend grabbing six.

With the Braves (18-10) missing eight consecutive shots, they were finally caught, 45-45, on an inside basket by Dedrick Washington with 3:12 left.

After a miss by Evans, T.K. Reed scored on a running jumper to give the Spartans their first lead since late in the first half. George Wrighster added a basket and after a free throw by Townsend, the Braves were down five points with 1:24 left.

Fahim Hassankhail made a three-point shot for Birmingham, then forced a jump ball. But after Birmingham was awarded possession, Fletcher threw the ball away.

Washington added a free throw with 26 seconds left. Alex Salas missed a long-range shot for Birmingham and Townsend added two free throws to seal the victory.

Evans scored only eight points and Fletcher had 12, well below their averages of nearly 20 a game. Fletcher scored three in the fourth quarter and Evans was scoreless.

"We wanted to take Evans and Fletcher out of their offense," Sylmar Coach Bort Escoto said. "Every time they got the ball, we would double-team them. We wanted their other guys to beat us."

Birmingham appeared in big trouble early in the third quarter when Hassankhail, a three-year starter at point guard, picked up his fourth foul with the Braves holding a 28-25 lead. After a slow start, Hassankhail made two three-point shots and was becoming a big factor when he was forced to the bench.

The Braves initially rallied without their floor leader. Salas scored seven points over the next four minutes and Birmingham built its 10-point lead.

Hassankhail came back after Sylmar cut the margin to four points a minute into the fourth quarter. But he was tentative on defense and the Braves' offense never found its earlier rhythm.

"All I kept thinking about was that I had four fouls," Hassankhail said. "It made a difference."

Wrighster scored 14 points for Sylmar, Washington scored nine, and Townsend and Reed each had eight as the Spartans won their 10th consecutive game.

Sylmar finished with a 42-22 rebounding advantage.

"It helps when you have a big and athletic front line," Escoto said. "We wanted to show we were the best rebounding team in the 3-A."

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