Let's play a game of word association with Mike McNulty.
Fairfax High: "Chris Mills."
Chris Mills: "All-American."
So Mike, are you worried about the 6-7 senior center who will play next year at Kentucky and is called by some the best player in City Section basketball history?
"If we can hold him to 27 like we did last time, we should do OK," the El Camino Real coach said before Wednesday's game.
Not so fast, coach.
El Camino Real held Mills to a quiet 22 points, but it made no difference in the Valley League game as Fairfax walked away with an easy 74-59 win at El Camino Real.
Mills, the City 4-A Division player of the year, converted 8 of 12 field-goal attempts, 4 of 7 free throws and grabbed 13 rebounds. Of the four shots he missed, two were three-point attempts and one was a dunk attempt. On the fourth, he rebounded his own miss and put it back in.
"They just have a lot of other good players," McNulty said. "They can score from four or five positions, which we can't."
With Cleveland losing, to Taft, 69-68, Fairfax (17-4, 11-1 in league play) won the league championship and will play host to Banning on Friday in the opening round of the 4-A playoffs. El Camino Real (4-15, 3-9) will travel to Manual Arts, the Marine League champion.
Playing in just his second game after recovering from an ankle injury, Mills said he was not at the top of his game.
"I was only playing about 70%. That's what they wanted me to do," Mills said. "They want me to be healthy for Friday's game."
Fairfax jumped out to a 20-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, in which El Camino Real made just one field goal--a three-point shot by Damon Orlando. Fairfax led, 36-24, at halftime.
The Lions increased their lead to 24 points on a free throw by Mills with 1:15 left in the third quarter. The Conquistadores made a run at Fairfax to start the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lions, 10-4, then closed the gap to 61-52 with 3:36 left on a three-point shot by Orlando. But down the stretch, Fairfax converted 11 of 14 free throws to keep the lead.
"We played them even or ahead after the first five minutes of the game," McNulty said. "We didn't come out ready to play."
El Camino Real's Brent Lofton, the league's second-leading scorer behind Mills, said his team started slowly because it wasn't ready for an encounter with Mills.
"Some people get intimidated by Chris," said Lofton, who finished with a game-high 26 points. "We came out playing slow instead of playing hard."
Forward Ilan Levy-Mayer added 17 points for Fairfax and guard Andre Durity scored 14. The Lions shot 46.8% (22 of 47) from the field.
Orlando had 14 points for El Camino Real, including three three-point shots.
"This is the best he's played all year," McNulty said of Orlando. "He was suspended from the team for nine games and this is only his fifth. It takes a lot to come back from that."