Gardena High’s boys’ basketball team was not at its best but managed to win two close games to finish in a tie for the Marine League title with Narbonne and advance to the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I playoffs. At Gardena on Feb. 9, the Panthers held off a much improved Rancho Dominguez Prep team from Long Beach 56-54. At Carson last Friday, Gardena topped the Colts 50-46. On Feb. 2 at Gardena, the Panthers breezed past Carson 64-35, but in their second meeting last Friday, struggled against the Colts. Gardena led 20-15 at halftime and 33-27 after three quarters and held on from there. Chase Williams and Jarren Ponds shared the Panthers’ high scoring honors with 17 points apiece. Ponds converted on all eight of his free throw attempts, including four down the stretch to preserve Gardena’s win. Against the Lobos, the Panthers started off well by taking a 29-18 halftime lead but a pesky Rancho Dominguez team gave them a scare by outscoring Gardena 36-27 in the second half. The Panthers were able to hold on behind a team-high 18 points by Williams and 10 from Quincy Phillips. “We haven’t played well in nearly three weeks,” Gardena head coach Ernie Carr said. “We’re struggling on offense and inconsistent on defense. We need to perform better.” The Lobos, who finished fourth in league at 4-6 and will play in the L.A. City Section Division III playoffs where they are seeded No. 2, were led by Andrionne Marcus with a gamehigh 22 points. It is the fifth time that Gardena (22-5 overall and 9-1 in league) gave up more than 50 points in a game and in two of those, by Rancho Dominguez. Fortunately the Panthers won both of those as they won the earlier game at Rancho Dominguez 73-61 on Jan. 28. Gardena will need improvement in the Division I playoffs, although the Panthers are seeded second, behind No. 1 Westchester, which had been an L.A. City Section and California state power for the past few decades under head coach Ed Azzam, who retired after last season. The Comets were replaced by Azzam’s top assistant, Dewitt Cotton and ended up third in the Western League behind champion Venice and runner-up Fairfax. Westchester is faced with rebuilding but still has a very good team. Gardena began the playoffs on Wednesday at home against Eagle Rock. If the Panthers win, they host the quarterfinals on Friday at 4 p.m. Narbonne (9-1 in league), meanwhile, is last seed in the eight-team Open Division as it opens at top-seed Taft in Woodland Hills Friday at 4 p.m. Venice is seeded second.