Anthony January played above the rim for most of the night in Taft’s semifinals victory over Crenshaw. Photo by Jason Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Sentinel sports writer/photographer Ken Brooks and I were talking before the Crenshaw vs. Taft City Section semifinals playoff game this past Saturday night at Dominguez Hills, wondering when was the last time that Crenshaw made it this deep in the playoffs.
Brooks was recalling a playoff game back in 2000, when he saw Westchester play for the first time. He was excited to see Crenshaw play because they had dominated the City section in basketball for years under legendary coach Willie West.
Brooks recalled being shocked at what he saw. Westchester, who had a good program but had not yet reached the status of being a dominant program on the level that Crenshaw had been for so many years, went lob city on Crenshaw that night and ran them out of the gym, winning the City championship. Westchester had taken the torch from Crenshaw that night by dunking all over them. Over the next 12 years, Westchester, Fairfax, and Taft (the Big 3), have taken turns winning City and State titles, with Westchester leading the way.
So that got me to thinking. Crenshaw was about to tip off against Taft, and Westchester was the favorite in the next game against Dorsey. If Crenshaw knocked off Taft, then the greatest program that the City section has ever seen in high school basketball would be back in the City championship game, and they’d most likely play Westchester, who has been the dominant team over the past 12 years.
Just thinking about that story gave me goose bumps, as I was thinking about my lead for that article. The old guard verses the new guard. Could Crenshaw get back on top of the mountain against the team that knocked them off of it?
But Brooks burst that Crenshaw vs. Westchester bubble really quick.
“That sounds good and all ‘J’, but Taft ain’t havin’ none of that!” Brooks said in a matter of fact way.
That Crenshaw vs. Westchester dream story idea deflated quickly after Brooks made his comment, and then it nearly became a silly notion when Taft power forward Anthony January started throwing down lobs in the first quarter against Crenshaw, and he was dunking whenever he felt like it like he was playing on an eight-foot rim.
Taft center Brandon Perry wanted in on the act, so he worked his way into the low post for easy dunks too.
Taft scored with ease by driving to the basket for easy lay ups, and their stingy defense forced a number of turnovers, which led to easy fast break points, and more thunderous dunks. Crenshaw had to scrap for every shot they took, while Taft just had their way with the ball.
This game got out of hand quickly as Taft built a 21 point second quarter lead.
The game had gotten away from Crenshaw, but they were not about to go home totally outclassed by one of the new City powers. Late in the fourth quarter they went on feverous run to get back in the game, and with time running out they were on the verge of making headlines with a miraculous comeback.
As the Crenshaw fans were going nuts in the stands as their team was coming back, Brooks did not believe what he was seeing. He thought the comeback was exciting in all, but he pointed out that you cannot beat the defending City champions, who are the favorites to win it all again, by playing three minutes of great basketball. The comeback was nice, but a little too late.
If Crenshaw had begun their comeback a lot earlier in the game, Brooks would have believed that they could do it, but just as he suspected would happen, time ran out on them, and they lost by one point, 64-63.
Crenshaw was a great story this season, and it was fun to think that they could make a run at the City title after years of watching the Big 3 win it all. But Taft has been putting up banners in their gym. It was going to take more than a late run to knock them off.
Crenshaw looks like they are back on track to compete for titles, which would be great to see. But for now, their glory still remains in the past. They will have another shot at glory this year because they have qualified for the state playoffs.
Taking off to stardom
Taft’s Anthony January dunked the ball numerous times against Crenshaw like he was playing on an eight-foot rim. The 6’7” senior from Compton is being recruited by UCLA, USC, Washington, San Diego State, UNLV, UTEP, and Memphis. Check him out against Dorsey in the City section championship game this Saturday at 8 p.m. at CSU Dominguez Hills. Photos by Jason Lewis
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