|HUGE LEAP: Westchester junior forward Dwayne Polee, who made the All-City second team, became a consistent performer in the postseason and his growth could help the Comets repeat as City and state champions next year.
Photo by Nick Koza for Sentinel
Westchester Dynasty leaps like a Polee dunk
You can say it now. Westchester High School is the boys’ basketball team of the decade.
Their 49-31 point thrashing of Oakland McClymonds in the CIF Division I state final gave the Comets their fifth state title and fourth this decade, having won in 2002, 2003 and 2005. But perhaps this title will mean more to Coach Ed Azzam and his bunch because of how they got there.
While basketball fans were enamored with Santa Ana Mater Dei High School’s quest for perfection, they perhaps overlooked a Comets team that was nationally ranked all year, played a demanding schedule and came through 35-2.
On paper, this was not the most talented squad Azzam has had. There are no highly touted players but there are players who will make an impact on the next level. Dominique O’Connor will be a solid point guard for some college coach and there’s no doubt that junior Jordin Mayes will end up at a big-name school like USC-bound classmate Dwayne Polee Jr.
What made this team special was their unselfishness and unbridled joy in playing with each other. They bought into Azzam’s preseason message that they could do something special and worked hard each game to bring themselves one step closer to that goal.
On the court, they were well balanced and even-tempered. You never saw players lose their emotions and even as they won their last two games, their celebrations reflected a workman-like appreciation for the effort they put into this season.
The scary thing is that they return all but three players next year. They’ll be the obvious favorites to repeat as City Section champs despite threats from rival Fairfax, Crenshaw (who has talented juniors coming back as well) and Taft.
The big key for the Comets is that Polee, who has shown flashes of brilliance his first two years, is finally showing he can be a consistent player on offense and defense.
His free throws in the City Section championship effectively iced the game against Taft and of course, many will remember his game-winning shot against Fairfax in the state regional semifinals.
More than just being a great leaper, Polee is using his athleticism to rebound and block shots and with another off-season of work, he could be an effective game-changer on both sides of the ball.
One national website said that he could draw parallels to former Comets guard Trevor Ariza next year. It may be a stretch and another unfair expectation, but what is clear is that Polee is now ready for the challenge.
For many who have watched him since his freshman year, this season was a significant step forward in his growth and all eyes will be on he and Mayes to see how far they can carry this bunch.
Westchester is now 5-0 in state title games and I couldn’t help but remember one assistant coach telling somebody after the state regional victory that they’re trying to catch up to Willie, referring to the legendary Crenshaw coach Willie West who was 8-0 in state title games.
There’s no telling how many more City and state titles the Comets can win in the next decade and with 10 and five right now, it’s not unreasonable to assume they could get another seven and four before Coach Azzam leaves the sidelines.
But there’s no doubt that their run in this decade will be something for future programs to measure up against like the great runs that Crenshaw had…
Checking around the baseball and softball scene, there are several players worth watching as the tournaments finish up and league play begins in earnest.
Crenshaw third baseman Alia Williams is continuing her pursuit of the state record for career home runs, which is currently at 47 by Crescenta Valley senior Baillie Kirker. Williams has four on the year, extending her total to 41.
University shortstop Justin Moore is off to a hot start with his bat as he is currently third in the City Section in batting average (.543) and the co-leader in steals (17).
On the mound, Crenshaw senior Kenji Corbisiero is leading the City Section in strikeouts with 34 and is fourth with a 0.40 earned run average.
Those are your quick hits for the week and be on the lookout for the All-Sentinel basketball team in the coming weeks.