Westchester basketball team surrounds Coach Ed Azzam during game against… (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles…)
Sloppy, ragged, out of sync. That was the surprising performance taking place Monday in a Western League basketball showdown between Westchester and host Palisades.
A nearly 70-foot shot that was made by Westchester's Tyler Batiste to end the first half tied the score at 31-31 and started to wake up the Comets. By the middle of the third quarter, their shots started to fall, enabling Westchester to secure a 69-60 victory.
"This is one of our worst games this season," Batiste said. "Luckily, we pulled it out. We buckled down on defense, and that helped."
Veteran Coach Ed Azzam, who has won six state championships and 11 City Section titles, is using a five-man substitution pattern this season, and it was his second unit that caught fire in the third quarter for Westchester.
"Our second group has the ability to score in bunches," he said.
Batiste, Cameron Young and Darnell Brown each made a three-pointer in the quarter, with Westchester coming away on top, 46-40. The lead expanded to 58-44 with 5:17 left on a dunk by Elijah Stewart.
Westchester improved to 15-5 overall and 3-0 in league. Palisades dropped to 12-6 and 2-1. It was a missed opportunity for the Dolphins, who made too many turnovers and couldn't get their leading scorer, Ammar Rehman, to break loose after foul trouble. He was limited to seven points.
Aaron Johnson scored 21 points for Palisades. Matthew Grant had 15 points and Batiste and Kevin Rutledge had 10 points apiece for Westchester.
"We played so poorly in the first half defensively and offensively," Azzam said.
But with Westchester's depth, there's always a chance one of 12 players will get hot, and the Comets made five three-pointers in the second half to pull away.
They face another important Western League road game Friday against Fairfax.
As far as his first-half heave, Batiste said, "Time was running out, so I had to put it up. Luckily, it went in."