LOS ANGELES >> There was no need for pleasantries with Birmingham and Taft meeting for a fourth time this season.
With the stakes higher in the L.A. City Section Open Division boys basketball semifinals and Birmingham having won the first three meetings, the mood was all business Saturday.
“Just gotta win the game,” Birmingham coach Nicholas Halic said before tip off.
On a night where senior Devante Doutrive was hampered by foul trouble, the Patriots did just that, grinding their way to an 80-73 victory to reach its first final in the City’s highest division.
Birmingham’s depth was on display as Devonnaire Doutrive finished with 23 points, Deschon Winston added 20 and Mark Boland, usually known for his shooting, had six rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
Devante Doutrive had 15 points, with eight on free throws. Six came in the fourth quarter when Birmingham made 14 free throws.
Birmingham led by as many 19 in the second half and 17 in the fourth quarter, but Taft rallied thanks to a 10-2 fourth-quarter run that got it within nine. After Devonnaire Doutrive made one of two free throws, Kihei Clark made two free throws, pulling the Toreadors within 65-57.
Winston then put the game away when he found Tyjae Medley for a layup, made two free throws and then hit a 3-pointer.
Birmingham will face Westchester for the Open Division title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Taft’s Antwan January sat most of the first half with three fouls but responded in the second half, where he scored all 23 of his points. January’s effort helped will the Toreadors back along with six turnovers by Birmingham in the quarter.
January added 15 rebounds despite his own foul trouble and Clark had 15 points. Abdul Zaid had 20 points.
“You’re not shocked by their speed and advantages anymore,” Taft coach Derrick Taylor said of facing Birmingham a fourth time, “You just have to execute.”
Birmingham’s lone City title came in 2010 in Division III.
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