The Westchester High School boys basketball team has only one more obstacle left to complete what has already been a dominating season.
The Comets will aim to capture the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division I championship against Serra High School of San Mateo at ARCO Arena in Sacramento Saturday, March 19th.
Westchester (24-3) won the state Division I crown in 1998, 2002 and 2003.
The team reached the Division I title game after winning the Southern California Regional championship with a narrow 54-53 defeat of Fairfax High Saturday, March 12th.
The regional title continued Westchester’s reign over its Western League rival Fairfax. The Comets have now won nine consecutive games over the Lions, including four this season.
The Lions were also the victims of Westchester defeats in the league championship game and the City Section championship game this season.
Fairfax won the Division I state title last season, when Westchester was banned from the playoffs.
The Comets are on their way to making up for all the titles they missed last year, and need only the state title to complete redemption.
Senior center Amir Johnson helped Westchester fight off a fierce challenge by Fairfax after he scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Westchester senior forward Jerard Moret finished with ten points and five rebounds in the regional championship.
In the regional semifinals:
In his last home game of his high school career, Westchester senior center Amir Johnson didn’t play any differently than he has all season.
Johnson, who finished with a game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, continued to be a powerful force on the court as he led the Comets to a 63-43 state Division I regional semifinal victory over Clovis West High School of Fresno Thursday, March 10th.
“It was big and I’m happy we won,” Johnson said of his last home game. “Now we have to take it home and win state.”
The Comets were ready from the start to earn their way to the regional finals, but Clovis West (27-6) was also prepared to fight for the spot.
The Golden Eagles also came out strong and weren’t about to let top-seeded Westchester take an easy path to the regional championship.
Westchester grabbed a 16-10 first-quarter lead after Johnson picked up six points and led the defensive attack with a couple of big blocks.
Clovis West evened the score at 16-16 with a 6-0 run to start the second quarter, but was unable to take over the lead due to continued defensive pressure by Johnson below the basket.
The Golden Eagles cut the Comet lead to 27-22 before halftime after a late three-pointer by junior Joey Parker.
“We knew they were going to play hard,” Westchester coach Ed Azzam said. “They played good defense and made it tough to get the ball to Amir (Johnson).”
The strong effort on defense kept Clovis West in the game for almost three quarters of the game, but then Westchester began to wear down the Golden Eagles.
Even though Clovis West came as close as five points early in the third quarter, Johnson said the Comets weren’t worried about the challenge and continued to put on the pressure.
“We kept playing defense and playing hard,” Johnson said. “We had to deny them the ball.”
Westchester stopped any comeback attempt by the Golden Eagles and used an 11-0 run in the third quarter to boost its offense for a 44-32 lead.
“We got the ball to Amir (Johnson) a couple of times and made some stops,” Azzam said.
The surge in offense for the Comets kept up in the final quarter as sophomore guard Isaiah Jenkins hit back-to-back three-pointers for a 20-point lead.
Senior guards Joey Knox and Marcus Johnson each scored seven points, and senior forward Jerard Moret added five points and four rebounds to help send Westchester to the regional final.