For coach Ed Azzam's Westchester team, Saturday's battle with Long Beach Poly was supposed to be just another step on the path to a potential state championship.
But halfway through the Southern California regional semifinal at Roybal LC, it seemed the Jackrabbits of Long Beach had slightly different thoughts. With Westchester's Dwayne Polee missing a good portion of the second quarter because of foul trouble and Poly's Robert Nixon Jr. leading all scorers with 11 points for seven-point lead for Poly at halftime.
But the Comets came back with a vengeance to start the second half, as Polee notched a jumper, layup and 3-point play early on and center Reggie Murphy added a dramatic dunk to deflate the mostly pro-Poly crowd. By the time two minutes were left in the quarter, Westchester had already taken a two-point lead. In all, the Comets outscored Poly 17-7 in the third quarter to take a 43-40 lead they would never relinquish. Westchester (31-3) went on to win, 67-53.
"We just came out trying to match their physicality in the second half," said Polee, who had a game-high 22 points. "And it worked for us."
For the Comets, guard Kareem Jamar had 12 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter and Murphy added 11.
Nixon Jr. and forward Ryan Anderson scored 11 points each for the Jackrabbits (28-5). Shelton Boykin, a Long Beach State signee, had nine points, and freshman Roschon Prince added eight.
Azzam spoke afterward about managing his team when the goings appeared rough and how they changed things around in the second half. His team will now move on to face Mater Dei at the Galen Center next Saturday.
Polee, who's still undecided on a college, said his primary goal in the second half of Saturday's game was to display a sense of urgency and carry his team on his shoulders.