WESTCHESTER -- Fairfax coach Harvey Kitani was hoping the third time would be the charm for his Lions when going up against the Westchester Comets in the quarterfinals of the CIF City Section playoffs.
Westchester (25-6), ranked eighth in the latest ESPNLA.com Top 20 rankings, was again too much for Kitani's Lions to handle -- for the third time this season. The Comets had already topped the Lions twice this season, by 27 points at Fairfax and by 12 at home. Tuesday, Westchester manhandled the Lions with a smothering man-to-man defense from the opening tip to take home the 59-34 win to set up a semifinals matchup with Washington at the Galen Center on Friday.
The Comets opened Tuesday's game with a 9-0 lead and led 25-10 at the half, never really letting the Lions into the game after that point. They withstood Fairfax's best run in the third quarter and led, 43-24, at the end of that period, before closing it out in the fourth with a well-balanced offensive attack that included a couple reserves.
"They didn't do anything different," Comets coach Ed Azzam said of the rival Lions. "And we didn't do anything different either. We struggle scoring, but they really struggle scoring, and so that was the difference. They just couldn't put the ball in the basket."
Westchester has now beaten Fairfax six consecutive times, with the last Fairfax win coming in February 2009 at Westchester. The storied rivalry, once thought to be fairly even at one point last decade, has clearly tipped in the Comets' direction.
Fairfax (17-10) didn't have a player reach double figures on the night, as senior Oliver Mills led the squad with seven points. Four Lions, including junior Landon Drew and sophomore Reggie Theus Jr., added five points each, but the lack of offense from the Fairfax side was clear.
"It was a little of them and a little of us," Kitani said. "They really jumped on us and they are a team to be reckoned with. The mental mistakes we made, you can't afford to do that against a team like Westchester.
"You can't recover, because they're not going to make stupid mistakes and allow you back in the game."
For Westchester, guard Joshua Wilson had a team-high 13 points. Matthew Grant and Trevone Williams added 11 and 10, and the Comets' Robert Gsellman had eight points and two key 3-pointers down the stretch.
Afterward, Azzam seemed to be ambivalent toward his team's offensive performance. But the defense?
"They scored 10 points in the first half," Azzam said. "How are you gonna complain about the defense?"