BAKERSFIELD — Newark Memorial High's boys basketball season has been defined by its performances against some of the state's top teams.
The Cougars' season ended on a down note Saturday when they couldn't overcome the play of the state's best team.
Westchester-Los Angeles, ranked No. 9 in the nation by the USA Today, had the hot hand and earned the California Interscholastic Federation Division I state championship with a 63-56 win at Rabobank Arena.
The Comets (32-3) shot 56 percent from the field, while Newark (30-5) struggled miserably with several misses inside.
"For us to win tonight we had to execute a little bit better and
make some of those tip-ins," Newark coach Craig Ashmore said.
Cougars star senior forward Khion Sankey picked up two fouls in the first four minutes. He left the game and missed all but a few seconds of the rest of the first half.
Newark mostly overcame his absence as it rallied from an eight-point deficit and cut it to 13-11 at the end of the first quarter when Gavin Presley beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer.
Westchester pulled ahead by 12 when Kareem Jamar drilled a 3 and flashed its athleticism when Jamar tossed up a pass to Dwayne Polee for an alley-oop dunk that made it 24-14.
The Cougars rallied to get within 24-18, but the Comets scored the final six points of the half including another dunk by Polee and a tip-in at the buzzer by Tre'vonne Williams to make it 30-18.
"They got more possessions," Sankey said. "We turned the ball over too much in the first half. We played as hard as we can and they just came out bigger. They deserved to win."
Westchester scored a quick four points to start the second half and prompt Ashmore to call a timeout. The Cougars responded with a 10-0 run to make it 34-28 with 3:46 left in the third quarter. Polee and 6-foot-9 Reggie Murphy also picked up their third fouls during that stretch.
The teams mostly exchanged buckets the rest of the quarter and Sankey converted a tip in at the buzzer to make it 41-33 entering the fourth.
The Cougars got back within six points twice early in the fourth before Westchester started to pull away. A 3-point play by Arizona-bound Jordin Mayes made it 51-39 with 4:37 left and prompted a Newark timeout.
The Cougars turned it over out of the timeout, and the Comets got two free throws from Denzel Douglas before Newark came back with a 5-0 run to get within nine points. A bucket by Kendall Andrews made it 55-47 with 2:03 left, but Jamar responded with a backbreaking 3 with 1:22 left.
Sankey hit a pair of late 3s that got Newark back within six, but the Cougars couldn't ever crack that barrier.
Sankey finished with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds and Andrews added 12 points and 10 rebounds.