Westchester's Elijah Stewart tries to corral in a rebound during… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)
The clear favorite to win a 13th City Section Division I basketball championship is Westchester High, and the Comets' depth and talent finally wore down Western League rival Fairfax on Friday night during a 69-60 victory.
Fairfax (12-6, 2-2) unveiled junior guard Lorne Currie in his season debut. He scored 23 points and helped the Lions keep pace into the third quarter. The game was tied at 31, 33 and 36.
But Westchester (17-4, 4-0) has many players to turn to, and senior guard Layon Gooden contributed 10 of his 16 points in the second half to ignite the Comets.
"I got the ball on the wing and shot the ball with confidence," said Gooden, who made two three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
As if Westchester wasn't strong enough, the Comets picked up an impact transfer this week when junior guard Ellis Salahuddin, a starter last season at Gardena Serra, became eligible after moving into the area. He had been at Garden Grove Orangewood Academy. He made two key baskets in the third quarter.
"It's a blessing to have another guard on the team," Gooden said. "He fits in perfectly."
Westchester turned the game around by giving Fairfax a dose of its own medicine — switching to a 2-3 zone defense in the second half. The Lions, who played their own zone defense, went cold from outside.
As for Currie, he played for the Lions as a sophomore, scoring 29 points in one game. Then he became academically ineligible and transferred to Bellflower St. John Bosco. He hadn't played in more than a year until Friday after returning to Fairfax.
"He gives us a player who knows how to play the game," said Coach Harvey Kitani. "He has outstanding skills. He can play like an old-school player."
Akil Hall Reese had 12 points for Westchester and Elijah Stewart 11. Olisaemeka Nwachie had 15 points for Fairfax.