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Westchester gives Azzam 800-plus coaching wins

Redondo's returning all-California state and preseason all-American guard Ian Fox dribbles past a Mayfair player during a recent tournament boys' basketball game.
Joseph Snyder

Last season, Westchester High's boys' basketball team captured the highly prestigious Maxpreps Classic in Palm Springs but its first of three wins in this tournament was a milestone.

The Comets began the classic with a 74-67 victory over Mission Hills Alemany to give Azzam, who is in his 32nd season as their head mentor, his 800th victory on Thursday.

Azzam has been very successful at Westchester. He has six California State championships and 12 CIF-Los Angeles City titles. His last City crown came last season and the Comets are already preseason favorites to repeat it, again.

Azzam produced some players who have even gone to play in the National Basketball Association, including Trevor Ariza from the Class of 2003. The Westchester Tournament played earlier this month is the Trevor Ariza Classic, which was won by Torrance Bishop Montgomery over the Comets on Dec. 7.

The Knights are unbeaten at 11-0 after winning the Mission Prep Tournament last week in San Luis Obispo and the first game of the Redondo Sea Hawk Classic against Lou Dantzler on Thursday.

Against Alemany, the Comets were led by Elijah Stewart with 20 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots.

Layon Gooden added 15 points and seven rebounds and Cameron Young chipped in 10 points.

Also on Thursday, Westchester went on to top Issaquah from Washington 56-51. Earlier today, the Comets defeated St. Edward of Lakewood, Ohio 66-58 to advance to the semifinals on Saturday. Azzam now has 802 wins, which puts him second in California behind Santa Ana Mater Dei's Gary McKnight with 970. McKnight, whose Monarchs are ranked second in the United States by Maxpreps Xcellent 25, will be expected to get his 1,000th coaching win by early next season. He's head coached Mater Dei since 1982, the same year Azzam started at Westchester.

After winning its own Pacific Shores Tournament with a cliffhanging 64-63 win over Lakewood Mayfair on Nov. 30 and placing fourth in the highly prestigious Las Vegas Tarkanian Classic at Bishop O' Gormon High, Redondo, head coached by Reggie Morris, Jr. who is in his second season, started its own Sea Hawk Classic by crushing Morris' ex-team Playa del Rey St. Bernard 87-47 on Thursday.

Morris headed the Vikings in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. In his first season, St. Bernard won the Southern California Regional championship but lost a close 47-44 game to St. Joseph-St. Mary's from Alameda in the state Division V championship. Two years ago, the Vikings won the Southern Section Division VAA crown.

The Sea Hawks, who improved to 8-3 against a mostly rigorous preseason schedule that included some nationally ranked teams, had 12 players score in double figures led by returning CIF-Southern Section Division IIA co-Player of the Year Ian Fox with 18 points. Six-foot-8 center Terrell Carter, who transferred from West Torrance High over last summer, contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Robert Fuller led the Vikings (5-7) with 15 points.

Last year, Redondo won the California State Division II championship, its first state crown ever. This season, the CIF-Southern Section has a new Open Division and if the Sea Hawks play well enough, look for them to play in this new monsterous division that will include several nationally ranked teams such as Mater Dei, Etiwanda, Bishop Montgomery and Long Beach Poly.

The Sea Hawks already played the Monarchs in the Tarkanian Classic and were routed 84-38 on Dec. 20. Much of it was because Redondo played its second game of the day after an impressive 67-63 victory over Utah state power Lone Peak, which was No. 1 in the nation by some prep sports polls last season but faced with rebuilding this year.

For the girls, Gardena Serra, which won the state Division IV title this season and could also play in the prestigious Open Division this year, began the Agoura Tournament by humiliating Sylmar 86-22 on Thursday.

Caila Hailey led the Cavaliers with 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine steals. Chyanne Butler, one of three transfers from St. Bernard, had 27 points, seven rebgounds, seven steals and five assists. Another St. Bernard transfer, Cydney Bolton, tallied 19 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists. Jenny Albano totaled 13 points and four rebounds.

Under first year head mentor Bo Corona, Lawndale Leuzinger, which has struggled in the Bay League over the past several years, is 6-6 after beginning the Alemany West Coast Holiday Festival Open with a 63-24 win over Burbank Bellermine-Jefferson on Thursday.

Taiana Puloka led the Lady Olympians with 14 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. Joycelin Puneta added 15 points, three assists and three steals. Sydney Coleman had 10 points, five steals and five assists, while Brooke Scott had 10 points, four steals and three assists.

Snyder's South Bay Basketball Rankings:

Boys: 1. Bishop Montgomery, 2. Redondo, 3. Westchester, 4. Serra, 5. Mira Costa, 6. Inglewood, 7. North Torrance, 8. Peninsula, 9. Leuzinger, 10. Torrance.

Girls: 1. Serra, 2. Narbonne, 3. West Torrance, 4. Redondo, 5. Mira Costa, 6. Bishop Montgomery, 7. Peninsula, 8. Carson, 9. Inglewood, 10. Culver City.

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