Taft boys basketball advances to City Open Division semifinals

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WOODLAND HILLS — It may be Bishop Brooks’ first season with Taft boys basketball, but he was well aware of the background behind Friday night’s game against King Drew.

“I wanted to help them get that getback because they lost in the semifinals last year,” Brooks, who transferred from Village Christian, said. “I believe in my coach, I believe in my team and I think we can win it all.”

It was a rematch of last season’s City Section Open Division semifinal, where the Golden Eagles upset the Toreadors. This time around, Taft won 66-43 in the quarterfinals on Friday night. Brooks led his team with 22 points.

Taft will face Westchester in the semifinals on Feb. 18 at Pasadena City College.

King Drew (15-15) rushed out to a 6-0 lead, holding Taft (19-10) scoreless until Adam Grissom fought his way to a layup halfway through the quarter. Two minutes later, Keyon Kensie (19 points) had a steal at half court and went in a for a one-handed dunk to tie the game at 6-all.

The Toreadors locked down the paint to secure most of its points in the first half. Alexander Bothast’s layup gave Taft an 8-6 lead with 2:15 left in the first quarter.

“Because we’re so big, that’s our advantage to every other team we play is playing big and on the board,” Brooks said. “It helps us win these games.” Taft hit its first 3-pointer of the game when Bothast (10 points) sank a shot from the left side.

Keyon Kensie with the steal, and then this. Taft is now tied 6-6 with King Drew.

— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) February 11, 2023

The basket gave the Toreadors a 22-12 advantage with 4:20 to go in the half.

King Drew scored just four points in the second quarter. Donald Thompson made a 3-pointer and Jacob LaCount made a free throw.

“We understood their tendencies,” Taft coach Derrick Taylor said. “We wanted to make it a one-on-one game. They’ll beat you with a pattern and stuff, and we wanted to take that away.”

Brooks made a three at the 6:30 mark in the third quarter, but the Golden Eagles scored 12 points from beyond the arc in the frame. Taylor called a timeout and Taft switched to man coverage, which got the Toreadors settled in once again for a 53-29 lead to start the final quarter.

Taylor said the coming week will involve lots of film. He and the Westchester coaching staff are exchanging film from their respective quarterfinal games, but it’s tough to predict how Taft will come out.

“They’re gonna see it anyway.” Taylor said of trading film. “Might as well give it to them and I’ll get theirs. But purposely wasn’t going to show a lot tonight.”

No. 8-seeded Westchester upset No. 1-seeded Narbonne on Friday night, so the Toreadors are bracing for anything.

“We’re gonna make sure we prepare,” Brooks said. “We’re not gonna underestimate Westchester because we know they beat Narbonne for a reason. I’m coming.”

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