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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Grant Stands Ground at Taft

City boys' basketball: Charleston scores 27 points, has 10 rebounds and sacrifices body for Lancers in 82-79 first-round playoff victory.

February 17, 2001|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WOODLAND HILLS — Three times, Mike Charleston of Grant High gave up his body and took charging fouls Friday night against Taft.

Twice he let All-City wide receiver Steve Smith of Taft ram him without even wearing shoulder pads. Charleston stood up so well he might want to consider dropping basketball for football.

"That's what a heart-and-guts guy does," Grant Coach Howard Levine said.

Charleston's refusal to let his team lose was the difference. He scored 27 points, had 10 rebounds and made eight consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter to help the Lancers pull out an 82-79 victory in a City Championship boys' basketball first-round game at Taft.

DeWayne Anderson was equally valuable for Grant (20-6), scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The victory sets up a quarterfinal matchup against top-seeded Westchester on Wednesday at Westchester.

"It proves we're a top-flight team in the Valley," Levine said of his Sunset Six League champions. "We did it on the road and took their pressure."

On a night Gilbert Arenas, former Grant guard, dropped by to shake so many hands in the crowd that he could have been a politician, the Lancers made him smile by outgunning the Toreadors (19-7).

Anderson kept out-hustling Taft players up and down the court.

"Anderson was the key," Taft Coach Derrick Taylor said. "He was tougher than our kids."

Smith scored 31 points, Mustafa Asghari had 25 points and Nima Javaherian had 21, combining for 77 of Taft's points. But the Toreadors hurried their shots in the fourth quarter and couldn't convert at crucial moments.

Taft had the ball trailing, 78-76, when the Toreadors threw it into Charleston's hands with 21 seconds left. He was fouled and made both free throws.

Asghari hit a three-point basket with four seconds left, cutting Taft's deficit to 80-79. Charleston made two free throws with three seconds left. Smith missed a potential game-tying three-point shot at the buzzer.

"It feels great," said Anderson, who quit the team in December, returned in January and has been on a scoring tear through February, averaging 24 points.

Said Levine: "Anderson seems to be a man possessed right now."

But the 6-foot-6 Charleston remains the player Grant counts on during good and bad times.

Even when the Lancers lost their starting center, Kevin Bernard, to a knee injury, Charleston kept finding ways to increase his contributions.

"He's the soul of this team and I don't think we would have been able to withstand the problems we've had without Charleston putting his heart into every game," Levine said.

Taylor added his respect for Charleston.

"He does a little bit of everything and he's sneaky good," Taylor said.

Charleston took everything in stride.

"It was just like any other game--give it all you have," he said.

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