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It is home cooking for both playoff-bound Fairfax teams

By Aaron Blevins, 2/14/2013

Boys open postseason tonight; girls play Friday

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It is playoff basketball season in the greater Los Angeles area, and Fairfax High School’s boys and girls teams will begin their respective bids for a city championship with home games this week.

Senior center John’ea Thompson drives through the lane during the girls team’s practice on Tuesday. (photo by Aaron Blevins)

The boys team (18-11, 8-4) will host Dorsey (11-16, 9-3) at 7 p.m. today. It will be Fairfax’s first match-up against the Coliseum League team this season. Coach Harvey Kitani said Dorsey eliminated Fairfax in last year’s playoffs, so the game will likely stir up “a lot of good memories, if you can call them good.”

“We’re going to see what we can do,” he said Tuesday. “It comes down to toughness — whatever team shows up with toughness. You’ve got to be smart and you’ve got to be tough. …We have to be more consistent. If we can exhibit that attitude and play, then we can make a good playoff run.”

Since the new year, the boys team has gone 11-5. Fairfax opened 2013 with a five-game win streak that included a three-point victory over JSerra Catholic (15-8, 5-5) in the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei High School.

However, the streak was snapped following a one-point home loss to Westchester (24-6, 12-0). Less than three weeks later, Fairfax lost to Westchester by 21 points on the road. Kitani said the point discrepancy in those two games was an example of the team’s need for more steady play.

“When they’re showing toughness and consistency, they’re pretty good basketball players,” he added.

The team is led by five seniors — guards Jonathan Brown and Reggie Theus Jr. and forwards Tommy Mitchell, Omari Mundy and Chauncey Hill. The rest of team is comprised of freshmen guards Donald Gipson and Antoine Monroe; junior forwards Olisaemeka Nwachie, Pierson Ro and Sage Woodruff; sophomore guard Lindsey Drew; junior guard Jelani Weaver; freshman center Babacar Thiombare; and sophomore forward Foster Dixson.

“This is a new season,” Kitani said. “If we can learn from all the things we’ve gone through since August and play with a little determination and with a chip-on-our-shoulder attitude, we could make a good run and compete for the city championship and play in the state tournament.”

If victorious, the boys team will play the winner of Palisades (20-8, 10-2) and San Pedro (15-11, 5-7) at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19.

The girls team (21-5, 11-1) will play Verdugo Hills (12-16, 4-8), an East Valley League team, at home at 7 p.m. on Friday. A win would pit Fairfax against the winner of Palisades (12-19, 8-4) and Chatsworth (6-20, 1-9) at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20.

Coach Judi Edwards said the team needs to stay focused in the postseason and put together 32 solid minutes of basketball. The team has been garnering a nice lead and then letting up, she said.

“We’re playing some really good basketball right now,” Edwards said. “We just have to be a little more consistent.”

She said this year’s team is taller, bigger, stronger and has more depth than some of the recent girls teams at Fairfax. Edwards said Fairfax struggled offensively earlier in the season, when opposing teams tried to take away the lane, forcing the team to shoot from the perimeter.

“We’ve got that ironed out,” she said. “We’re not afraid of that outside look anymore.”

The coach said she is not very familiar with Verdugo Hills, but Fairfax should “have an OK time with them.” She said it is imperative that the team stay focused and not take any team for granted.

Fairfax is young, with just three seniors — point guard Angelica Laury, guard Maria Concechado and center John’ea Thompson — and one junior, forward Ilianna Blanc. Underclassmen are guards Jailyn Robateau, Philomena Smorynski, Cassidy Poston and Tania Lee; forwards Marguerite Effa and Yolanda Ealy; and center Baylee Thomas.

Since Jan. 1, the girls teams is 15-3, with losses coming against Narbonne (19-7, 10-1-1), Palisades and Ventura (20-6, 8-0). Since the loss to Ventura on Jan. 19, Fairfax is 8-0. On Feb. 5, the team beat rival Westchester (24-7, 10-2) by a score of 72-59.

“It was really our best basketball,” Edwards said. “And it’s been the highlight of the my season with these young ladies.”

She said Fairfax’s five losses could be, in part, attributed to the young players learning the system and their roles.

“I don’t think we have a problem anymore,” she said. “The seniors have realty guided them along. They understand the system we’re running.”

 

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