When it's two big dogs from the same league

We've been down this road before. St. Francis vs. Mitty in girls volleyball. St. Joseph vs. Bishop O'Dowd in boys basketball. Clovis vs. Clovis West in just about everything. Now it's Fairfax vs. Westchester in boys basketball.

The road involves two teams from the same league. They are dominant against almost everybody else they play except each other. They are not only in the same league, but the same division and the same section. This means they could play, not once, but sometimes four to five times during a season.

In such rivalries, getting the first leg up is important, as Fairfax of Los Angeles did on Tuesday of this week in its boys basketball rivalry with Westchester of Los Angeles. But the only game that really matters, and coaches Harvey Kitani and Ed Azzam know it better than anyone, is that last one. Going 4-1 against your rival means absolutely nothing if your rival's win came in that one game that ended your season and advanced your rival into a state championship.

The Fairfax-Westchester series this year has added significance because of what the two have already done on the national level and what Westchester could potentially do.

Fairfax won the Iolani Prep Invitational in Hawaii over a stellar field that included Franklin of Seattle, Wash., Miami Christian of Florida, Vincent of Milwaukee, Wis., and Montrose Christian of Rockville, Md.

Westchester won its division at the Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic and lost on a last-second shot to Rice of New York at the Nike Academy Invitational in Houston. The Comets also still have a game coming up at the Prime Time Shootout in New Jersey against St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio, which is the nation's No. 1 team. Entering this week's game, Westchester was No. 6 in the Student Sports FAB 50 national rankings and Fairfax was No. 13. That order will no doubt be reversed next week, not so much because Fairfax won but more for how the Lions did it.

After falling behind by as many as 19 points in the first half, Fairfax clamped on the defensive pressure and climbed all the way back for a 58-55 victory. Westchester led at the half, 40-33, but suffered a horrible third quarter. The Comets only scored two points, gave up 19, and were down by 10 entering the final quarter. The closest they got in the fourth quarter was one point.

Point guard Kevin Bell led Fairfax with 21 points and displayed excellent court leadership. The team's third-quarter dominance was fueled by forward Alex Bausley, who had eight of his 15 points. Center Scott Cutley was Westchester's top scorer with 14 points.

The teams will play their second Western League game at Westchester and will probably be seeded No. 1 and No. 2 in the L.A. City Section playoffs. They'd then possibly meet again in the section finals and yet again in the Southern California regional playoffs.


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