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The City championship game was close throughout, but Westchester rose to the challenge, as a 10-0 run late in the fourth quarter sealed their victory. Senior guard Darnell Brown (above) led the team with 12 points. Photo by Jason Lewis
El Camino Real was looking for their first City Section Division I title, but at the end of the night it was Westchester who celebrated their 12th. Photo by Jason Lewis
Championship experience was the difference in Westchester's 65-59 victory over El Camino Real. Both teams head to State.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
For three and a half quarters in the City Section Division I high school basketball championship game, Westchester and El Camino Real (ECR) were pretty much even. They battled it out in a back and forth game for the most part, as both teams took the lead at times during the game. But there was one huge difference between these two programs. Westchester entered the game with 11 Division I titles, while ECR had none.
That difference did not present itself until a two minute stretch late in the fourth period. With ECR clinging to a two-point lead with just over four minutes to play, Westchester flexed their championship muscles and went on a 10-0 run, which ECR could not recover from.
Westchester head coach Ed Azzam has been in this situation many times, so he knew the right buttons to push.
"Coach has been here for a number of championship games," said senior guard Matthew Grant, who made key baskets on Westchester's 10-0 run. "He told us to just keep our cool and not to force anything."
Westchester had a balanced attack. Grant scored 11 points, senior guard Darnell Brown led the way with 12, and junior guard Myles Stewart scored 10.
This is Westchester's first title since 2010, so this senior class needed this victory to feel like they are a part of the school's history of basketball greatness.
"We had the alumni game," Grant said. "We see all the alumni come back and they point to all the banners that they put up. Now we can come back and point to ours."
For ECR, who won the Division II title last year and made their first ever appearence in the Division I championship game this year, even though they came up short, this game was a major step in the right direction for a program known more for wrestling and baseball.
"It was good to see that our school is playing on this type of level competitively, and it was really good to get a lot of alumni folks out and to see the spirit of the school extended by all of the El Camino Conquistadors," said Craig Baylis, who graduated from ECR in 1989 and went on to study at Southern University and A&M College. "It was a really good game, but it was a disappointing loss. But we are still going State, so the prospects of a victorious year is still with us. We haven't experience this with the basketball program. It's been years since I've been to a basketball game. It looks like we have established a new image with our program. We'll be back."
ECR returns the bulk of their roster, as they relied on a number of juniors, and they have a lot of sophomores waiting in the wings.
This Friday night ECR will travel to Mater Dei for the first round of the State playoffs. Westchester will travel to Fresno Bullard that same evening. Palisades will play at Mission Viejo, and Crenshaw hosts Crescenta Valley tonight.