For the second consecutive boys basketball season, the Fairfax High School Lions have gotten the best of the Westchester High School Comets when it comes to Western League play.
Last season the Lions came out on top in both league battles against the rival Comets, and this year it was the same story, with Fairfax taking the first victory 51-48 at home December 13th, and then earning a 59-54 win at Westchester’s gym Thursday, February 8th.
For the second time in two years, the Lions (18-5, 11-0) can call themselves Western League champions, as they went through the league schedule this season undefeated.
But what the Comets (19-5, 10-2) are now hoping for is a repeat of the Los Angeles City Section playoff result last season, when Westchester got revenge against Fairfax in the semifinals on its way to capturing the city championship.
The Comets have been the dominant team in the city playoffs this decade by winning the city championship every season except for 2004, when they were not eligible for the postseason.
By defeating the Comets twice and winning the league crown this season, Fairfax earned the top seed in the city playoffs, while Westchester was not far behind with the second seed.
Both teams earned home-court advantage for their first game of the city playoffs at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 15th.
Westchester, the number-five ranked team by the Los Angeles Times, will host 15th-seeded Narbonne High School (10-17), while Fairfax, the Los Angeles Times fourth-ranked team, will host 16th-seeded Cleveland High (13-12).
Westchester and Fairfax will look to do battle once again with the city title on the line, and that’s when the Comets are aiming to get their revenge.
In the second loss to Fairfax February 8th, the Comets kept up with the Lions throughout the first half. The two teams were tied 16-16 after the first quarter and Westchester took a 27-25 lead into halftime after a field goal by senior Isaiah Jenkins, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
But after a struggling shooting performance with four points in the first half, Fairfax star senior forward Chace Stanback — who is headed to UCLA next season — then took over after halftime.
Stanback went into another gear on offense for the Lions, racking up 11 of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter and leading a 13-0 run that helped put Fairfax ahead 44-36 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Westchester offense made the first move in the third quarter, as freshman Dwayne Polee went for a wide-open dunk to give the Comets a 34-29 lead, but that’s when Stanback started to change things for Fairfax.
The senior, who also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game, hit a three-pointer to regain the lead for his team at 36-34, which highlighted the offensive run that allowed Fairfax to take over the quarter.
Westchester appeared to have no answer for Stanback, whom Comets coach Ed Azzam called “the focus of our defense.”
The Lions continued to give Westchester trouble at the start of the fourth quarter as they stretched their lead to as much as 52-43, but the Comets managed to climb back.
A second three-pointer by Jenkins brought Westchester to within three points with 4:25 remaining in the game.
Junior Oscar Bellfield, who led the Comets with 16 points, including four three-pointers, then tied the score at 52-52 with a three-point shot that capped off a 9-0 run by Westchester.
But Fairfax didn’t fade and prevented Westchester from overtaking the lead. Stanback converted a late three-point play to put the Lions ahead 57-52, solidifying the key league victory.
Junior guard Chris Solomon added 13 points for Fairfax.
Westchester junior Jarred Dubois finished as the team’s second-highest point scorer in the game, with nine points.