The Venice High School gymnasium was more like the site of a planetarium show Friday, January 14th, as the Westchester High School Comets swiftly soared to a 90-54 Western League victory over the Venice Gondoliers.
Westchester (8-2, 2-0) arrived at Venice ranked third in the Southland by the Los Angeles Times, and the favorite to win another league title.
Venice (6-11, 1-1) opened league play with a 76-74 win over University High Wednesday, January 12th, but the Gondos had to rise to another level when challenging the Comets.
“I have the utmost respect for coach (Ed) Azzam and his program,” Venice coach Rasheed Hazzard said.
“We were excited about the opportunity to play one of the top teams in the country.”
Westchester wasted no time demonstrating its strength, as senior guard Marcus Johnson, who had a team-high 18 points, slammed a thunderous dunk to start the scoring.
The Comets grabbed a 26-17 first-quarter lead with fast-paced, aggressive play, and showed the depth of their roster with seven players scoring.
Senior center Amir Johnson, who was injured for the early season and sat out most of last year, led the early defensive attack with big blocks and finished the game with 13 points.
“I’m trying to play my best, and I’m coming back with a vengeance after what happened last year,” said Amir Johnson, referring to a team recruiting violation ruling that kept him from playing.
“We play hard against every team.”
Venice struggled from the start to keep pace with the Comets, but had a couple of standout plays in the beginning that showed it would not let intimidation stand in the way.
The Gondos picked up some early turnovers, including a steal by junior guard Calvin Morgan, who led Venice with ten points and excited the crowd with a huge dunk to bring the score to 23-17. Senior guard David Gomez helped keep Venice’s first-quarter deficit under ten by scoring seven of his ten points.
“No one can say we didn’t come to this game and compete,” Hazzard said.
Westchester continued its impressive show in the second quarter, making big scores with fancy shots and powerful dunks by Marcus Johnson to excite the crowd. The Comets took a substantial 52-33 lead by halftime after Amir Johnson picked up eight points.
By trying to keep up with the Comets’ pace, Venice began to commit turnovers, but Morgan showed the Gondos would not let up by finishing off another steal with a big dunk of his own.
“Westchester practices at that pace everyday,” Hazzard said. “Their (Gondos) bodies went into shock at halftime and they didn’t have the same reserve as Westchester.”
Venice’s stamina began to diminish after halftime trying to keep up with a Westchester team that continued substituting players. The Gondos picked up six points by forcing Westchester fouls, while the Comets continued to roll and would not let up in a 23-10 run in the third quarter.
The speedy play of the Comets continued until the very end and proved to be too much to handle for the Gondos. Senior Jarrel Lake finished with 14 points in the Comets’ non-stop scoring attack.
“We’re trying to learn to play the whole game and we’re getting there,” Comets coach Azzam said. “We’re getting better every game.”