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Westchester’s Keywbon Powns battles against two Capo Valley players in a 45-42 victory. Photo by Ken Brooks
Taft’s Anthony January scored 26 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in their 73-57 upset of Loyola, who was one of the highest ranked teams in the state. Photo by Ken Brooks
Long Beach Poly may have lost a lot of talent off of their state championship team from a year ago, but Rochon Prince and others have them in the hunt for another title. Photo by Ken BrooksFairfax, Westchester, Taft win convincingly in final tune-ups before playoffs Fairfax and Westchester meet Friday night in their regular season finales and if their performances in the Nike Extravaganza at Santa Ana Mater Dei were any indication, both teams will be in for another dogfight.Fairfax relied on the hot shooting of Brendyn Taylor to help them defeat Eisenhower 73-67. Taylor hit two three-pointers in the final 2:30 and sealed the game with four free throws in the final minute. “At some point, I knew I’d have to knock down a few shots,” Taylor said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform so it’s pretty important to come out and get a W.”Westchester had to sweat it out a bit more as they narrowly defeated Capistrano Valley 45-42. The Comets overcame an eight-point lead in the fourth and had to survive a missed three pointer at the buzzer. It’s set the stage for a rematch that will impact not just the Western League, but the City playoff seedings when they are announced this weekend. Fairfax won the first meeting 53-46, a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Westchester admittedly played one of its worst first halves of the season.“We’ve had a couple quality wins since then to get ready for Fairfax,” Westchester forward Keywhon Powns said.Westchester rebounded to beat Orange Lutheran in their next game and now a win over Capo Valley has restored a bit of their confidence. All eyes will be at Westchester Friday to see how everything plays out between them and Fairfax.“Hopefully we can take care of business and get ready for the playoffs,” Fairfax head coach Harvey Kitani said. In other Extravaganza tidbits, Woodland Hills Taft not only thrashed Loyola 73-57, it helped the City Section go 3-0 at the Nike Extravaganza. It’s the first time the City has had a winning record since 2009.More importantly, it’s a positive sign of the City’s strength, since it has been a down year for the section compared to years past.Since Anthony January became eligible after missing the first seven games, Taft has been dominant and after thrashing Loyola, who was ranked No. 6 in the POWERADE state rankings at the time, it’s clear they are the team to beat in the City Section.Just don’t tell that to head coach Jason Hart, who cautioned against giving the defending City champions the crown.“Anything can happen and we can get bumped at any moment so we approach every game like it’s our last,” Hart said.January had one of the day’s best performances with 26 points and 14 rebounds. It was the exclamation point on a loud statement by the City.Crenshaw head coach Ed Waters, who watched Saturday’s action from the stands, could only smile knowing what awaits his Coliseum League champion squad in the playoffs.“The City is going to be very competitive this year,” Waters said.Long Beach Poly made a statement in their 67-45 win over Orange Lutheran that showed why they are ranked No. 2 in the state.While they haven’t gotten much attention after losing several seniors from last year’s Division 1-AA title team, they proved last week that despite being overlooked, there’s still a hunger teams should be aware of.“Anytime you lose four players of the caliber we had on the team last year, people will think you’re in rebuilding mode,” Poly head coach Sharrief Metoyer said. “But we have guys who are experienced with winning and winning is contagious. “Leading the way was senior guard R.J. Strickland, who finished with 19 points. Despite being Poly’s second leading scorer, he’s been overshadowed by teammates Roschon Prince and Jordan Bell but his strong play gives the Jackrabbits another weapon to consider.“I just tried to do me and that’s all I can do,” Strickland said.A word of advice to UCLA. If you lose out recruiting Shabazz Muhammad, you may not live it down for a while. The No. 1 prospect in the country put on a show as he led Bishop Gorman (NV) to a 69-59 win in the evening’s final game. Muhammad finished with 41 points and was a one-man wrecking crew, going 13/20 from the field and 6/6 on three pointers.Muhammad is the type of recruit UCLA used to get easily – think Kevin Love or Jrue Holiday in recent years. He’s still interested in UCLA along with UNLV and Kentucky but he’s somebody Ben Howland and Co. can’t let slip away.
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