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Narbonne sophomore guard Latecia Smith is a rising star, and her 15 points plus a key basket late in the game gave her team the City title. Photo by Jason Lewis
Narbonne took a young team to the City title game, where they had another hard fought battle with Fairfax. This is the third title under head coach Victoria Sanders. Photo by Jason Lewis
Fairfax sophomore power forward Marguerte Effa dominated the paint, as she scored 23 points, and she had key rebounds and blocked shots. Photo by Jason Lewis
Fairfax senior guard Angelica Laury was in attack mode all game, as she scored 17 points. Photo by Jason Lewis
Narbonne defeated Fairfax for a second consecutive year in the title game. Both teams head to State.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Narbonne and Fairfax high schools are forming a rivalry in girl's basketball, and they turned in another classic in the City Section Division I championship game.
A year ago these two teams battled it out, with Fairfax controlling most of the action well into the 3rd period, but Narbonne grinding out a tough victory for their second championship under head coach Victoria Sanders.
Narbonne lost a number of key players from that team, so there were some doubters on their abilities to make it back to the title game this year. They overcame the naysayers, and to nobody's surprise, Fairfax was there waiting for them.
In the latest addition of this rivalry, the two teams slugged it out for four periods of high intensity basketball, with both teams taking the lead a different points of the game, but Narbonne came up big time at key moments late in the game to seal a 65-60 win.
"It was tough, and it was pretty intense," Sanders said. "They have a veteran group and our kids are still young. They got a little rattled here and there. We just had to settle them down."
Narbonne played like a veteran group down the stretch. With just over a minute to play, sophomore guard Latecia Smith, who is a rising star, came up with a championship type play when she took the ball from Fairfax's end of the court and sprinted to the other end of the court for a tough layup over Fairfax defenders.
At that point it seemed like Narbonne was taking this game away from Fairfax. In the closing moments, junior guard Kayla Brady had two free throw attempts that would ice the game. She hit nothing but the bottom of the net on both, and Narbonne had their third City title under Sanders. Brady finished the game with 10 points.
Watching this game unfold, it was difficult to tell who would win, because neither team would let the other one run away with the game.
"It was very nerve wrecking," Smith said. "You didn't know what was going to happen, so as a unit we had to stay positive. We couldn't let nobody get down. Everybody stepped up. People who usually do not contribute as much, they stepped up, and that was the key to this game."
Narbonne has a young team (they are returning four of their five starters next year), but the moment was not too big for them, especially Brady when she was at the free throw line. Earlier in the game she suffered a shoulder injury that looked like it would sideline her, but she gutted it out until the end, and the two free throws were no problem for her.
"I wasn't feeling pressure because it is a shot that I normally work on," Brady said. "I knew that I could knock them down. The championship means a lot because we're a young team, and people underestimated us on our way here. I didn't want to leave my team hanging out to dry. I knew that they needed me, and that we needed each other."
Narbonne received key contributions from sophomore forward Lauryn Catching, who scored 10 points and had key blocked shots and rebounds, and senior guard Kiana Angel hit timely shots, as she scored nine points.
Junior guard Jade Everage scored eight points and sophomore center TyBriann Jones scored seven.
Smith, who led the team with 15 points, looked like she could have gotten her shot off on any possession, but her unselfish play allowed the team to play as a group.
"I like to contribute," Smith said. "I like to do what ever I can to contribute to my team. It doesn't have to be points, it can be assists, it could be steals. My overall game, I'm a contributor."
Sanders has great praise for Smith.
"She's just an awesome player," Sanders said. "She has a lot of heart. When it's crunch time, and it's time to go to work, and we know that we need to get some points, she's going to get it. She's going to figure out a way to get it. She's getting smarter and smarter every year."
Fairfax may have come up on the losing end again, but this team deserves a lot of praise for coming so close to the City title for a second year in a row.
Fairfax had big games from sophomore power forward Marguerte Effa, who dominated the paint and scored 23 points, senior guard Angelica Laury, who repeatedly drove the lane for lay-ups and scored 17 points, and senior guard John'ea Thompson, who added 14 points.
In the State playoffs, Narbonne hosts Ventura and Fairfax hosts Long Beach Poly tonight (Wednesday, March 6).