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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL

Fairfax beats Westchester with Renardo Sidney and defense

Center has a huge game with 26 points and 22 rebounds in 49-42 victory.

February 07, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

There was a sense of urgency Friday night for Los Angeles Fairfax.

"It was a must-win game," 6-foot-11 center Renardo Sidney said.

With the Western League title at stake and a possible No. 1 seeding for the City Section Division I playoffs on the line, the Lions came up with their best defensive effort of the season to upset No. 2-ranked Westchester, 49-42, before an overflow crowd at Westchester.

Sidney came through with an effort that was nothing short of sensational. He had 26 points, 22 rebounds and five blocked shots, causing one college recruiter to remark, "He played like the best player in the nation."

Sidney had to limp to the bench at the end of the third quarter after grabbing his right hamstring in pain from a cramp. He came back in the fourth quarter and never left. His two free throws with 23 seconds gave the Lions a 45-42 lead.

"I think I was dehydrated," Sidney said. "It was hot. I knew the team needed me, and I had to suck it up."

Fairfax maintained its lead with clutch free throws in the last 30 seconds from Sidney and Solomon Hill.

The Lions (20-3, 9-1), who pulled into a first-place tie with Westchester (22-2, 9-1), gave up 83 points to Palisades two weeks ago.

Their improved defensive effort was seen in the first quarter, when they held the Comets to four points.

"We were able to get some stops," Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani said. "Our defense kept us in the game."

Dominique O'Connor led Westchester with 16 points, but it was the defensive effort by Lance Bailey against O'Connor that provided a lift for the Lions.

Westchester led in the game only once, when Dwayne Polee Jr. scored on a layup with 2:22 left for a 38-37 advantage.

Then Bailey came up with the steal of the game and converted it into a basket for a 39-38 Fairfax lead. The Lions never trailed again in avenging a 78-73 loss to Westchester on Jan. 16.

The game's big surprise was that Westchester's talented guards had a rare off night shooting. In the last meeting between the schools, Westchester's guards made nine three-point baskets. They had two Friday.

"We're a guard-oriented team," Westchester Coach Ed Azzam said. "The fact is, we couldn't knock down open shots."

Westchester and Fairfax probably will finish in a tie for first place in league, which would require a coin flip to determine the league's top playoff representative. And that winner is expected to be awarded the No. 1 seeding in the Division I playoffs.

As for Sidney's performance, Kitani said, "He showed what he's capable of doing -- dominating."

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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