Los Angeles Preps: Kareem Jamar

Pete Fox of 710 ESPN and Mark LeCair of ESPN Bakersfield spent all day Saturday taking in the second day of the CIF State Basketball championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. Southern California teams won three of the six titles decided that day, including the inspirational story of Gardena Serra, which won a title in memory of Stephen Autry, who died before the playoffs and before he could see his son Vaughn and the Cavaliers make their run. Here are interviews with Autry, other Serra teammates and coach Dwan Hurt.

In Division I, the Long Beach Poly girls' team fell short in its quest for five consecutive state titles and senior Brittany Wilson tries to explain, while player of the game Kareem Jamar for the Westchester boys discusses his team's achievement of back-to-back state titles.

As Westchester High prepares to defend its state Division I title Saturday night, it may have more to overcome than opponent Newark Memorial.

Complacency is a danger factor in play after the Comets defeated Santa Ana Mater Dei last week in a Southern California regional title game that matched what many believed were the top two teams in the state.

But coach Ed Azzam has sounded all season like a coach who hasn’t had to worry much about this team. Even though the team is filled with Division I college prospects such as Dwayne Polee, Jordin Mayes, and Kareem Jamar, it is a team that plays together and stays together, no matter the situation.

“That won’t be an issue at all with these guys,” Azzam said. “They’ve been there and they know what it takes. It's a fun team that's shown a lot of poise and a lot of character for the last two years. They've been as enjoyable as hell to coach.”

The defending champion Comets (31-3) are seeking their sixth state title and history indicates they have a pretty good shot: They are 5-0 in state championship games. A repeat would make them the first Division I team to do so since they turned the trick in 2002-03.

They will face a Newark Memorial defense that has given up only 44.9 points a game this season. Westchester averages 72 a game.

The Cougars don’t have a lot of size, with Khion Shankey and Kendall Andrews, the team’s top two scorers, topping out the team at 6 feet 4. That could present serious matchup problems with 6-6 Polee and 6-9 Reggie Murphy, who dominated the paint against Mater Dei.

Memorial (30-4) has never won a state title in basketball, losing the 2000 Division II title game in its only previous championship game appearance. The teams have both defeated Taft and Fairfax this season. Memorial defeated Taft, 48-41, and Fairfax, 50-34.

Westchester, which is undefeated against teams from California, defeated Taft twice, 71-62 and 70-60, and Fairfax twice, 72-39 and 80-44.

The odds seem to favor Westchester, but Azzam said this team would be concerned with any of that.

“A lead doesn't mean anything, a deficit doesn't mean anything, they just play,” Azzam said. “They just have a way, a poise; they're unselfish, they don't get rattled. It irritates the hell out of me sometimes.”

LA South & LA North:
Taft and Westchester all tied up at the half

March, 6, 2010
Taft forward Bryce Jones has been the best player on the floor so far in tonight's City Section boys' Division I championship game.

The senior has 12 points and eight rebounds — both game highs — at halftime at the Galen Center, where Westchester and Taft are tied at 24-24.

Kareem Jamar leads Westchester with nine points. Former USC commit Dwayne Polee has struggled for the Comets, scoring only four points and turning the ball over three times.

The lower bowl of the Galen Center — USC's home arena — is almost completely full for the contest. The game is being billed as the "battle for the city."

Westchester led 24-18 near the end of the half, before Jones jumped in front of a pass at halfcourt and took it back the other way for a dunk. He added a free throw on the Toreadors' next possession, and Pierson Williams hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into the half tied.