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Comets defeat Taft 60-55 to win 10th City title since 1991.
Before the season started, Westchester’s basketball team had a simple goal of adding some more banners to their gymnasium.
On Friday night, they got one of their wishes as they won their 10th City Section championship and 7th this decade by defeating Taft 60-55 in the Division I final at the Galen Center at USC.
An evenly-matched game finally tilted in Westchester’s favor when junior Dwayne Polee hit two free throws with 14.6 seconds left to put the Comets up five after Taft guard Michael Williams missed a three-point attempt from the right side.
Neither team had an advantage for most of the game as Williams tried to offset the Comets’ balanced scoring attack by himself. The senior had 32 points on a versatile array of perimeter shots (five three-pointers) and slashing lay-ups.
It was the rest of the Toreadors (25-4), however, that struggled to find their shot most of the game. Senior guard Justin Hawkins had nine points despite battling flu-like symptoms and senior forward Terran Carter had 11 rebounds but missed two crucial free throws in the final seconds.
Jordin Mayes led the Comets (30-2) with 18 points and seven assists but it was the Comets’ three most experienced players who made the difference down the stretch.
Senior guard Dominique O’Connor (eight points, eight assists) hit a floater to put the Comets up 57-53 with 1:05 left. After Williams hit two free throws to make it 57-55, senior Deshaun McCoy (12 points) hit one of two free throws to make it 58-55 with 25 seconds left.
Polee, playing on his future home court, calmly hit the free-throws as his team finally exorcised their recent playoff demons.
The Comets lost the 2007 title in a blowout loss to rival Fairfax. Last year, they gave up a seven point lead to Fairfax in the semi-finals.
“We had to get this City championship. It wasn’t just for us, it was for the [school],” McCoy said.
The title caps a successful decade for the Comets, who have won seven City and three state championships since 2000.In each year, they have reached the City Section finals except for last year and 2004, when they were barred from postseason play.
This year might have been one of the most fun in recent memory as this team was marked with unselfish players who loved to share the credit if it meant adding one more notch to their belt.
As for Taft, it was a disappointing finish but for a team many thought wouldn’t be there after losing three starters, it was something to be proud of.
The road isn’t over for both as they advance to the state regional tournament starting Monday. Westchester will expect to get a high seed in the Division I bracket, arguably the most loaded in the state with the likes of Mater Dei, Riverside King and league rival Fairfax.
“There’s a lot of good teams in there but I feel we can still win state,” O’Connor said.