BAKERSFIELD - It didn't feel like a championship game. Maybe it was because Newark Memorial didn't seem to present much of a threat. Maybe it was because the crowd was reactive instead of proactive. Maybe it was because the real state championship was played last week against Mater Dei in a showdown of national powers.
But Westchester's second consecutive state title became official Saturday against Newark Memorial, a 63-56 victory at Rabobank Arena that provided the Comets with the Division I championship.
Somehow, the result ended surprisingly close. Westchester (32-3), taller and more talented, couldn't shake a more physical and relentless team in Newark Memorial (30-5).
Westchester, winner of its sixth title overall, is ranked No. 6 nationally by ESPN Rise. It led, 53-39, with 4 minutes 23 seconds left but the lead narrowed to six points in the final minute.
“The only thing that comforted us was they have a tough job shooting,” said Westchester coach Ed Azzam, who couldn't express afterward how difficult the game was on his team. “The kids didn't take this game as seriously as I did.”
Newark made 19 of 51 shots from the field (37 percent), Westchester 23 of 41 (56 percent).
Newark didn't have anyone over 6 feet 4 on its roster; the only player Westchester started that wasn't at least 6-4 was Arizona-bound Jordin Mayes, who is 6-2.
Newark never seemed a real threat, and Westchester had a big shot for every Newark rally.
“It was a tough game, it was a tough team,” Azzam said. “They don't shoot the ball very well, but they went and got it. We're skill and finesse, but they're very physical. We didn't do a good job because [Newark] did good things on the floor.”
The game was billed as a matchup between one of the state's most high-powered offenses and one of the state's stingiest defenses.
City Section player of the year Dwayne Polee Jr., was held to only seven points, including a couple of fantastic dunks, but he was picked up by Kareem Jamar with 16 points, Mayes with 11 points and reserve Denzel Douglas with 12. Tre'vonne Williams scored eight, all in the first half as Westchester mounted control of the game.
“It feels good, not too many people can say they won back-to-back,” said Polee, who concentrated on rebounding at the expense of scoring. “Coach said if I didn't rebound, we'd lose.” Polee had a team-high six rebounds.
Westchester opened an 11-2 lead but Newark rallied late in the first quarter to pull to 13-11. Jamar scored five of the next seven points for a 20-11 lead and Westchester closed the half with a 6-0 run to stretch its advantage to 30-18.