South L.A. schools reached the main stage as the CIF City Section Championship commenced last weekend.
For the first time in their school history, the Washington Prep Generals boys basketball team earned a Division I title after they survived the University Wildcats 60-58. The Crenshaw Cougars girls basketball team suffered the harsh pang of defeat for the first time in their season, losing the Division II title match 68-59 to the Hamilton Yankees.
“It’s special, it’s just great to win my sophomore year,” said Hamilton forward Kennedee Rankin. “We’re a young team … so next year, we all know how to play together.”
The Division I boys game brought out generations of Washington Prep supporters as University was two points away from tying the game with two seconds left in regulation. Wildcats guard Daisone Hughes fired a contested shot as the clock ran out, but it banked off the rim.
Washington had to overcome their slow first half, they left the first quarter with only six points. By halftime, they still trailed 24-34; but the Generals got better with time, scoring a collective 19 points in the fourth quarter.
“I felt it from the beginning of this season,” said Generals junior Hansen Clarke on winning a championship. “Our coach said we got it, so I just believed.”
One could blame the tough challenges in tournament play on their success. Washington Prep faced powerhouse teams like Harvard-Westlake, the Brentwood School and Dominguez. They finished second in the Marine League with a 9-3 record behind Narbonne.
Washington prep is currently ranked 81st in California.
“We’ve been going at it all year, we done lost some close games and they’ve been getting over the hurdle all year,” said Washington boys’ head coach Jovante King. “At the end, we came together as a team and we figured it out.”
The Hamilton Yankees also battled tough opponents through their season. As a team in the Western League, Hamilton battled against Fairfax, who is ranked 85 in the nation, and Westchester.
“It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of time in the gym,” said Yankees girls head coach Sherland Chensam. “We’ve been preparing for this for the past two years.”
The Cougars were competitive in the beginning moments of the game, but a six-point run near the end of the first quarter had Crenshaw lagging 11-18.
Although Crenshaw senior Arianna Bowden worked to block shots, the Cougars did not have an answer to the Yankees speedy offense. Freshmen guard Sherisse Chensam kept the Yankee advantage strong with baskets.
By halftime, the Yankees were up by nine, Crenshaw fought to make shots land during the third quarter. Hamilton remained strong, enforcing a seven-point run. As the fourth quarter came around, sophomore Kennedee Rankin ensured that the Yankees would clinch the victory.
Washington Prep is bound for the Division III boys state tournament while Hamilton will compete in the Division III girls state tournament.