Bryce Jones and Taft hung tough Saturday with vaunted Westchester in the City Section boys' Division I championship game at the Galen Center, but their efforts proved not enough to unseat the Comets from the perch of city champions.
Westchester (27-3) beat the Toreadors, 70-60, to renew its lease on the title. The Comets had beaten Taft 60-55 a year ago in the same situation.
Jones, playing all but 51 seconds of the game, had 29 points on only 14 shots and 12 rebounds. His coach, Derrick Taylor, called him the "best player in the city" after the game. The opposing coach, Ed Azzam, said his team had no answer for the 6-foot-5 senior.
Jones could do a lot Saturday, but he couldn't manage to lead his team to victory.
"I really wanted to win this," Jones said afterward, shaking his head. "But I guess I just couldn't."
Dwayne Polee led Westchester with 19 points. Three other Comets — Menas Stephens, Arizona commit Jordin Mayes, and Montana commit Kareem Jamar — had at least 12 points each. Texas signee DeAndre Daniels had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Toreadors (24-5).
Westchester went into the break tied 24-24 after Taft put together a six-point run to close out the half.
"That's almost as bad as we've played all year, in the first half," Azzam said. "Young kids, big stage, big crowd, everybody wants to do well individually.
"We forgot what got us here."
The Comets went on to outscore the Toreadors 25-12 in the third period to grab a firm grasp on the game, but Taft stayed competitive throughout the fourth quarter. The Toreadors got to within seven, at 62-55, with two minutes left after Jones made two free throws.
Westchester then responded with a dramatic alley-oop dunk from Jamar to Polee that got the high-intensity Galen Center crowd roaring.
Jones, a USC signee we profiled here, talked about his own performance, small forward counterpart, Polee, and the disappointment in losing to Westchester again:
And Taylor, in his 10th year with the Toreadors, has now seen his squad lose to Westchester in the City title game in consecutive seasons. He talked about that, Jones' success against the Comets, and more after the game:
Azzam wasn't pleased with his team's performance, but he did praise his players' third quarter resurgence: