Just when it seemed that the Westchester High School Comets boys basketball team’s reign over the Fairfax High School Lions was about to continue, the Lions surged back late in the fourth quarter to put away the Comets 58-54 in a Western League game Wednesday, January 18th.
The defending league champion Comets (15-4, 3-1) had held a nine-game winning streak over rival Fairfax (15-2, 4-0) heading into the highly anticipated match-up last week, when a standing-room-only crowd filled the Westchester High gymnasium to witness the first battle of the season.
Westchester, ranked number five by the Los Angeles Times, came out on top in each of the four games against Fairfax last year, on the way to capturing the Los Angeles City Section and state Division I championships.
But many stars from last year’s successful Westchester squad have moved on and this year’s team was not considered the pre-season favorite to capture the league and city titles.
That honor went to Fairfax, the team ranked second by the Los Angeles Times, and the Lions were ready to show the Comets that it’s a different year.
With its first victory over Westchester in four years, Fairfax has jumped to the top of the league standings and is also in good position to earn the top seed in the City Section playoffs.
Westchester appeared to be in fine shape to add another victory against the Lions until things started to turn around for Fairfax in the final quarter.
After a close-fought first quarter, Westchester grabbed the early lead and held on to it for most of the game until Fairfax started to really apply its defensive pressure in the fourth quarter.
Fairfax junior Chace Stanback, who finished with 16 points and four rebounds, ignited the comeback effort in the final quarter with two three-pointers to bring the Lions within two points.
Senior guard Ahmaad Cook, who led Westchester with 15 points, scored a basket for a 54-49 lead with 2:45 remaining in the game, but Fairfax put a stop to the Comet scoring from there.
The Lions then took their first lead since the first quarter on a huge dunk by Stanback with 1:50 remaining.
After appearing to be in control for most of the game, Westchester had no answer for the late Fairfax turnaround.
The Comets had a chance to even the score, but junior Isaiah Jenkins, who finished with seven points, missed two critical free throws.
Fairfax secured the victory with a final free throw, forcing the Comets to take one last three-point shot that missed.
Both teams started the game aggressively but Westchester came out with the early edge by grabbing a 14-11 first-quarter lead.
The Comets put on an impressive show on offense in the second quarter and ended the period on a 14-0 run to take a 33-19 lead at halftime.
Cook led the second-quarter route for Westchester with seven points, and junior Dane Suttle added six points, including a dunk to end the quarter.
The Lions put an end to the Westchester scoring run early in the third quarter and began to find life again on offense, thanks to an 11-point effort by Ja’shon Hampton, who finished with a game-high 18 points.
Although Westchester maintained the edge with a 44-35 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Fairfax’s finishing performance was able to prevent yet another Comet victory.
Suttle scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds and sophomore Jarred Dubois and senior Brett Goodwell each scored eight points in the loss for the Comets.