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scene in the Southland | CITY SECTION REPORT

Westchester May Return Stronger

March 08, 2001|GARY KLEIN

Players and coaches at Westchester High on Wednesday were still coming to grips with the boys' basketball team's loss to Corona Centennial in the opening game of the Southern California regional of the state tournament.

Seventh-seeded Centennial defeated the second-seeded Comets, 89-86, in overtime Tuesday night to advance to a semifinal against Fresno Clovis West, which defeated Fremont, 78-70.

Westchester, which had made the state Division I championship its main goal this season, finished 28-2, its only losses coming in overtime against Bishop O'Connell of North Carolina and Centennial.

Westchester had a five-point lead with 9.9 seconds left in regulation against Centennial but could not hold off the Huskies.

"The bottom line is we didn't make our free throws, especially in the fourth quarter," said Westchester Coach Ed Azzam, whose team made only 16 of 34 from the foul line in the game. "And [Centennial] didn't make mistakes down the stretch."

"We had our opportunities and didn't take advantage of them."

Azzam credited Centennial for executing a solid game plan against the Comets, who routed every playoff opponent on their way to a second consecutive City Section championship. Westchester averaged 109 points a game in playoff victories over Marshall, Van Nuys Grant, Crenshaw and Fremont.

"They handled our pressure, rebounded with us and made us run an offense that was more deliberate than we like," Azzam said. "That's what you have to do to stay with us, and they did it.

"We didn't realize all of our goals or expectations, but it was a real successful season."

With seven of its top 10 players returning, including starters Brandon Heath, Hassan Adams, Keith Everage and Ashanti Cook, Westchester will be favored to win a third consecutive City title next year.

"I don't think we'll be as deep," Azzam said. "But we may be better."

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