Column: Westchester beats Fairfax in first round of City rivalry

1621735497 Column Westchester beats Fairfax in first round of City rivalry
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The fiercest, most competitive basketball rivalry in the City Section is Westchester vs. Fairfax, and it always produces a packed gymnasium filled with celebrity moments.

There was the time Russell Westbrook showed up when he was at UCLA. There was the time musician Chris Brown walked in with his bodyguards and the crowd went nuts. The No. 1 Fairfax fan, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, usually sits in the front row cheering on the Lions.

In a time of COVID-19 restrictions, only parents and friends of family members were allowed to enter the Fairfax gym Saturday afternoon for the first of two scheduled Western League meetings. Some of the players appeared to treat it as if it was “just another game.”

Not senior TJ Wainwright of Westchester.

“It was turned up,” he said. “This was Fairfax-Westchester. “

Wainwright scored his team’s first 11 points and had 20 through three quarters. By the fourth quarter, when Fairfax was battling for the lead, his Westchester teammates started to realize their intensity level and focus needed to rise. Key baskets by Darius McClain and Zion Sutton helped the Comets earn a 62-54 victory. The two teams play again Friday at Westchester and could meet a third time in the City Section Open Division playoffs in June. Last season Westchester defeated Fairfax in the City final.

“We made some mistakes,” Westchester coach Ed Azzam said. “They figured it out on their own. Guys hit some shots. We have a long ways to go and a short time to get there.”

Westchester is 7-0 in an abbreviated regular season that ends next Saturday. Fairfax is 6-1. Fairfax coach Reggie Morris Jr. has already done wonders getting his team to make major strides. The Lions held a 21-20 halftime lead and scrapped and hustled and served notice they can be a factor come playoff time. Barry Wilds scored 17 points and DJ Dudley had 13. Ahmad Brooks scored six consecutive points in the fourth quarter as the Lions briefly tied the score.

Seedings for the playoffs will be decided next weekend, and Westchester, King/Drew (4-0) and Lake Balboa Birmingham (6-3) are considered the top teams, along with Fairfax, Harbor City Narbonne (4-1) and Van Nuys Grant (7-0). There have been so few games that getting teams to peak in time for June playoffs is asking a lot. But, as Wainwright emphasized, “We have to bring it to the other team.”
The eight-team Southern Section Open Division field became a lot clearer earlier Saturday after Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (12-0) rallied to defeat North Hills Heritage Christian 88-76. Amari Bailey and Shy Odom each finished with 26 points. Bailey had seven of his eight assists in the second half. Ryan Grande made five three-pointers. Freshman Isaiah Elohim had 22 points for Heritage Christian.

The eight teams expected to be selected for the Open Division boys’ bracket, which will be released on Sunday, are Sierra Canyon, Corona Centennial, Santa Ana Mater Dei, Etiwanda, Studio City Harvard-Westlake, L.A. Ribet Academy, Bellflower St. John Bosco and La Verne Damien.

Soccer finalists: L.A. Loyola and Manhattan Beach Mira Costa are the last two teams standing in Southern Section Division 1 boys’ soccer playoffs after both came away with semifinal victories. Loyola got a second-half goal from Spencer Roberts to defeat No. 2-seeded Anaheim Servite 1-0. Mira Costa received two goals from three-sport athlete Thomas Southey in a 6-0 victory over Santa Ana Godinez.

In Division 1 girls soccer, unbeaten Harvard-Westlake knocked off Corona Santiago 4-1. Alyssa Thompson scored two goals.

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