El Camino Real High guard Maleke Haynes fights off Crenshaw defenders on… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
It's the time of the basketball season when style points no longer matter, rankings mean nothing and trying to impress college recruiters is on hold. Now it's all about earning a championship ring, and Woodland Hills El Camino Real passed a final hurdle Saturday night to get its shot.
The Conquistadores (28-2) went on a 17-2 run to start the fourth quarter and turned a nine-point lead into an 82-57 victory over Crenshaw in a City Section Division I semifinal at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
"We started fighting through it," guard Mason Pollock said of the Conquistadores' ragged moments in a foul-plagued game. "We shared the ball. We trusted each other."
Julian Richardson scored 22 points, Michael Thomas 17, Pollock 13 and Kelton Conway 11 to send the Conquistadores into their first Division I final next Saturday at 8 p.m. against Westchester. Maleke Haynes had 10 assists.
FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this story misspelled Mason Pollock's name.
El Camino Real led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter before settling for a 42-30 halftime lead. There were 23 free throws in the second quarter. Crenshaw (19-9) was hanging around behind Birdel Hodge (15 points) and Micah Winn (14 points).
But Richardson came back from sitting on the bench with three fouls to start the fourth, and the Conquistadores responded to the challenge like a potential City champion should.
"In the first half, we played tough but not with a lot of discipline," Pollock said. "We started reacting to the officiating, getting down."
El Camino Real won the Division II title last season and has tried to prepared for these final two weeks where the pressure is intense and the level of play needs to be moved up a notch.
"We know what we came here to do," Pollock said. "If we stick to our game, we're going to be able to play anyone."
Top-seeded Westchester, an 11-time City champion, defeated Palisades, 62-49, in the other semifinal. Matthew Grant scored 18 points for the Comets (27-6).
Pollock and the Conquistadores have been looking forward to playing the Comets for months.
"We've had our eye on them all year," Pollock said.
Girls' final is set
In Division I girls, Fairfax and Narbonne advanced to the final. Fairfax defeated University, 56-59. John'ea Thompson scored 14 points and had 14 rebounds. Narbonne defeated El Camino Real, 47-39. Latecia Smith had 18 points and Kayla Brady 15.
New coach at Loyola
Former USC secondary coach Marvin Sanders was appointed football coach at Los Angeles Loyola.
Sanders, 45, has been a long-time college assistant.
"It was a high school coach who was a big influence on my life, and I always wanted the opportunity to give back and this will be that opportunity," he said.