King/Drew defeats LACES for City Section Open Division title

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When the final buzzer sounded, Josahn Webster let out a victory cry and looked over at his father and coach, Lloyd Webster, who had a broad smile on his face. Father and son, coach and player, led the King/Drew boys’ basketball team to the top of the mountain — and they had plenty of people to share the moment with.

Josahn, a sophomore guard, scored 18 points and Jayshawn Kibble had 20 as the second-seeded Golden Eagles withstood every run by Los Angeles CES to win the City Section Open Division championship, 51-45, Saturday night at Pasadena City College — their fourth section crown but first at the highest level.

“It’s pressure in the beginning, but if you’re a baller, you’re a baller,” Josahn said of playing for his dad. “You get used to it, and him being tough only makes you stronger.”

King/Drew guard Jayshawn Kibble tries to shoot over LACES defender Ryan Conner.

King/Drew guard Jayshawn Kibble tries to shoot over LACES defender Ryan Conner during the City Section Open Division boys’ basketball final.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

King/Drew (19-11) used using its loss to Washington Prep in its regular-season finale as motivation and was determined not to underestimate any opponent in the playoffs. The Golden Eagles did not, defeating No. 7 Palisades, No. 3 Birmingham and the No. 8 Unicorns (19-11), who had upset top-seeded Cleveland in the quarterfinals.

“When they beat the No. 1 seed, we knew we’d have a fight if we played them,” said junior Donald Thompson, who was held to four points but did all of the little things to help his team win — starting fast breaks, boxing out on rebounds and finding open shooters when he was double teamed. “I wasn’t producing on offense like I usually do, but there are many ways to impact a game. Our defensive intensity is what won it for us.”

LACES, which also was in pursuit of its first Open Division crown after winning five championships in lower divisions since 2009, goes as senior point guard Donovan Cornelius goes, and on Saturday he was held to 12 points. Ryan Conner, who made a last-second three-pointer to stun Chatsworth in the semifinals, added six for the Unicorns.

“Our mind-set was to compete and that no one is better than us,” Josahn Webster said.

LACES trailed by 12 with 5:35 left, but a three-pointer by Yasin Sharif pulled the Unicorns to within seven with 3:27 left. Kibble answered with an acrobatic layup while being fouled, twisting his body in midair, to make it 44-35. Cornelius made a technical free throw and Ian Hunter hit a floater in the lane to make it 44-38, and wing Emmanuel Duru made one of two free throws with 2:14 left. However, Orlando Johnson drove for a layup and Webster hit a pair of free throws to put King/Drew up 48-39 with 1:17 remaining.

Conner’s three-pointer pulled LACES within 48-42 with 58.9 seconds left, but Kibble then made two free throws, forcing Conner to foul intentionally and Webster made the first of two foul shots to make it a nine-point lead with 34.1 seconds left.

King/Drew players celebrate their Open Division victory over LACES on Saturday.

King/Drew players celebrate their Open Division victory over LACES on Saturday.

(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

King/Drew was making its fifth straight appearance in the Open Division. It lost in the finals in 2022, but this time the Golden Eagles would not be denied.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Thompson said. “When the season started everyone doubted us, saying we were too young, no one expected us to win. I’m not even thinking about next year. I’m just happy we won.”

Division II

Verdugo Hills 53, Garfield 43 — Center George Abdulnour scored 15 points, Gianmarco Figueroa had 13 points, Alexander Martinez finished with 10 points and Garik Yepremyan added nine points for the Dons (21-11), who opened the second quarter on a 13-0 run to take control and never trailed after that.

Jayden Barnes scored 18 points for the top-seeded Bulldogs (24-3), who suffered their first loss since a 64-59 defeat to Venice on Dec. 19. Garfield was trying to win a second straight City title, having won the Division III crown last year.

Both teams will represent the section in the regional playoffs.

Division IV

Bernstein 67, Math & Science 61 — Greg Griffin scored 29 points, Troy Agtang added 26 points and Jeff Fields made a pair of free throws with 12.1 seconds remaining to clinch the Dragons’ third City title and first since winning the Division II championship in 2016. Sidney Scott scored 18 points and Adan Martinez and Sterling Keyser added 12 apiece for the Sharks (23-8), who were seeking their second section crown.

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