It's the final week of the City Section basketball regular season, and a word of warning: Westchester is starting to play like a title contender.
The Comets (19-5, 9-1) won their sixth consecutive game and took a major step toward winning the Western League championship with a 55-45 victory over host Palisades on Monday.
It was one of Westchester's best all-around performances of the season. The Comets dominated in the rebounding department. Je'ron Primus and Keywhon Powns took turns guarding and frustrating All-City guard Donovan Johnson. And Westchester made 14 of 16 free throws.
Since a disappointing league loss to Fairfax on Jan. 25, Westchester has beaten top teams La Verne Lutheran, Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley and Palisades, using unselfish team play and all-out defensive effort.
"We seem to be playing more consistent," Coach Ed Azzam said. "Sometimes we have lapses. Maybe we've turned the corner."
It couldn't have come at a better time, because Westchester now has a one-game lead over Palisades (15-10, 9-2) and Fairfax (18-9, 9-2). Westchester plays at Fairfax on Friday night. A Fairfax victory would probably result in a three-way tie for first.
But beating the Comets right now isn't going to be easy. The players have come to understand that, individually, they probably aren't as talented as any of Westchester's 11 City championship teams. But as a group, they can be tough, as Palisades found out.
"If we're not playing together, we're in trouble," Azzam said.
Johnson finished with 20 points, but he had only 11 through three quarters when the game was decided. Powns led Westchester with 14 points, Primus had 12 points, including three three-pointers, and 6-foot-8 Zachary McMillan had 10 points and controlled the boards.
Palisades, one of the best scoring teams in the league, had only five points 10 minutes into the game.
"I think the big game got to us," Dolphins Coach James Paleno said. "We played nervous."
And there's more good news for Westchester. Its junior varsity team is 22-1 and loaded with outstanding freshmen and sophomores.