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Inglewood’s Randy Onwuasor throws down a dunk to help his team win the Division II-AA title. Photo by Ken Brooks
Inglewood was nearly counted out at the end of the regular season, but in the end they proved to be No. 1. Photo by Ken Brooks
There were a few layers of significance to the 60-57 championship win by Inglewood boys over Simi Valley Royal High. From the players perspective, they endured a rollercoaster season and came from virtually nowhere to win the Division II-AA title. For coach Patrick Roy, it was a milestone that accentuates a career and a body of work which includes 11 finals appearances. Historically, it is the programs third title including the 1994 Paul Pierce led team and the 1980 national championship team. A couple of weeks ago, a title appearance seemed more out of reach than any other in recent memory. The Sentinels were derailed during their regular season stretch run. They had done all they could to finally earn a share of first place by beating Santa Monica, which had led the Ocean League. But subsequent back to back losses to Beverly Hills and Morningside made for an ugly finish and showed untimely inconsistency. Despite the second place finish, the losses resulted in an erroneous unseeded ranking in the 32 team bracket. Roy however, was hardly concerned about the rankings and never counted his team out. “I felt if we could get a rhythm going during the playoffs we had a chance”, he said. Leadership from co-captain point guard Randy Onwuasor also helped keep the team optimistic throughout the season’s ups and downs. By the time of the championship game, Inglewood was brimming with confidence. And they needed every ounce of that belief to withstand the rigors of trailing for over 26 minutes before finally snatching the lead from 7th seeded Royal. The finals box score percentages were not pretty, but the runner up players and coaches repeatedly acknowledged that Inglewood’s rebounding intensity made the difference. The Sentinels certainly tightened up the defense, but clearly outworked Royal on the boards in crunch time and everything else fell into place. Not bad for an unranked team. Heading into the southern regional state tournament, they face a multiple title opportunity similar to the girls program which recently won their first regional (2009) and first sectional (2010) championships. They have gone from unseeded to 5th seed. And to go from unlikely to likely again, they will need to dominate the boards throughout entire games as much as they did in the clutch.
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