Legendary former Fairfax coach Harvey Kitani was there, the signature glasses again, the trademark black mustache now turned pepper gray. Trevor Ariza was there, Westchester’s delight and pleasure turned NBA champion, lounging in an open room behind the baseline.
Items, reminiscences of a previous period in a time-honored rivalry floated round Westchester’s gymnasium Wednesday night time for the newest installment of Fairfax-Westchester boys’ basketball. Items of an period when your complete center part can be full of faculty coaches. When the gymnasium was packed so full in 2002 that moisture dripped from the partitions.
However to Solomon Hill, the previous Fairfax star and NBA ahead sitting and watching along with his younger son, that period is gone —washed away by private-school dominance within the Southland.
“Sad to say,” Hill mentioned when requested how the rivalry can stay, “but it won’t.”
Strive telling that to the gamers who flung trash discuss and clawed for free balls and swatted away pictures as a still-lively Westchester gymnasium rocked within the fourth quarter. And after a dizzying Fairfax defensive sequence, a late tip by Westchester’s Michael Hill fell a second too late after the ultimate buzzer, Lions gamers roaring with pleasure in sealing a 55-54 win.
“Many of the private schools have taken the top players, and that’s fine,” mentioned Fairfax’s Romello McRae, whose brother Robert McRae graduated from Fairfax hoops in 2019. “But we want to still show that L.A. City basketball is still one of the top basketball places to be, and that’s the goal with this rivalry.”
Rows of banners dangle on the high of the again wall in Westchester’s gymnasium, preserving a run of dominance — 15 Metropolis championships — in contrast to another staff in Metropolis Part basketball historical past. Fairfax has lengthy been the Comets’ operating mate, the 2 every with three titles for the reason that Open Division was launched. Kitani and longtime Westchester coach Ed Azzam oversaw a rivalry that grew, as Hill mentioned, as each groups realized they had been one another’s finest and infrequently solely competitors within the Metropolis Part.
Each Kitani and Azzam have moved on, although, longtime assistants Dewitt Cotton and Jamal Hartwell now of their place. And Kitani was there Wednesday night time, he mentioned, to see Hartwell’s first varsity sport teaching towards Westchester.
“I wanted to be here, and just be with him,” Kitani mentioned.
Fairfax received out and operating early, program mainstay David Mack darting and dishing to provide the Lions a first-quarter lead. Westchester shut down the Lions within the subsequent two quarters, although, as senior Jonathan Choyce splashed his third three of the night time to provide the Comets a 47-42 lead.
Down 54-48 with two minutes to play and vitality within the away stands swelling, Fairfax’s Sebastian Ikolo cashed in free throw after free throw to provide the Lions a one-point edge with seconds remaining. A 3 by Hill flew lengthy, and Fairfax hounded Westchester simply lengthy sufficient for the buzzer to sound, Hartwell fist-pumping and slapping Ikolo’s hand.
“That’s what Fairfax do!” the first-year coach yelled. “That’s what Fairfax do.”