The Crenshaw cougars boys basketball team remained prominent by earning their second consecutive City Championship title against the Granada Hills Highlanders 65-45. In the second half, Crenshaw exploded with their speedy transitions and high-flying shots to win the game.
“I knew that in the second half, we would play our type of basketball,” said Crenshaw head coach Ed Waters. “Defense wins championships and we [started] playing defense.”
Although both teams committed several turnovers, the gameplay was quick and exciting. Granada Hills senior Onaje Higgins sped to the hoop only for junior Kevin Ebiriekwe to block the shot against the backboard. Junior Jonathan Reese avenged Higgins with a pair of three pointers. With 2:37 left in the first quarter, Granada Hills was ahead 16-12. Lamar Harris hammered in a windmill dunk to conclude the first quarter, bringing the cougars within two points of the highlanders at 14-16.
Granada Hills stayed strong, adding on 11 points during the second period with help from Higgins and sophomore Jesse Bannout. The cougars were on their heels, Harris forced a turnover and sailed in for another dunk. Higgins was the final player to score; Granada Hills led 27-24 by halftime.
“Coach said we need to go out that there and play our hardest,” said Harris. “We need to play defense, get back on defense, and win the game.”
The highlanders stretched their lead with a 6-0 run in the first two minutes of the second half. Senior Ramone Wagner scored 7 points through free throws and one shot from behind the arc. A three-pointer from junior Aron Johnson closed Crenshaw’s deficit to one point. After Wagner went back to the charity stripe, the cougars had the lead. Bannout tied the score at 36 with 2:53 left in the third.
Crenshaw put up six more points before the beginning of the fourth quarter. A one-handed dunk by Harris gave the cougars a 12-point lead. Reese broke the highlanders’ dry spell with a close-range jumper with 6:11 left in regulation.
“We always went hard in practice, every single day,” said Crenshaw senior Chris Kendrick. “When it comes to the end of the game, we pretty much break away.”
The offensive efforts of Granada Hills slowed down, mistakes led to free throws for Crenshaw. In the final minutes, the cougars went on a six-point rush that included two dunks from Ebiriekwe. With 2:25 remaining in the game, Crenshaw had a 15-point lead.
Before the game ended, Harris cut into the paint for one more dunk, Sophomore Makaar Lainer pegged the cougars final score.
Staff, parents, and alumni of Crenshaw high school came out to bear witness of the game, including Rochelle Hall, an alum and former gifted magnet coordinator of the school.
“It is so wonderful to come back to support a school that I went to and I worked at,” Hall said. “And to see some of my students that have grown up and now and now their younger siblings are actually carrying on the traditions of athletics and academics.”