El Camino Real's Maleke Haynes takes on Fairfax's Olisaemeka… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)
Since 2000, every City Section Division I boys’ basketball championship has been won by Westchester (nine), Taft (four) or Fairfax (one). El Camino Real desperately wants to join the elite club.
On Saturday night in a semifinal playoff game, the senior-dominated Conquistadores came through in the fourth quarter in a 51-41 victory over Fairfax at L.A. Southwest College, giving them another chance to make it happen.
The lead was two points going into the final quarter, but that’s when point guard Maleke Haynes contributed eight of his 16 points.
“Maleke has been great in the second half of the season,” Coach Joe Wyatt said. “He’s been leading with his passing and hitting big shots. He’s come a long way.”
El Camino Real (24-6) was expected to be right where it is — playing for a City title. But to get into that position, it has been a struggle at times. The seniors have been up and down, particularly Haynes.
“He was pressing,” Wyatt said. “I told him he can change games with his passes.”
Against the Lions (21-10), with top scorer Julian Richardson limited to five points, Haynes looked to make an impact offensively. He combined with Evan Wardlow (13 points) to lead the Conquistadores.
“They were keying on Julian,” Haynes said. “I felt I had to make some big shots.”
Lindsey Drew scored 10 points for Fairfax, which held a 9-5 lead after the first quarter until Chris Terry and Kelton Conway came off the bench to spark a 14-0 El Camino Real run. Terry had eight points in the quarter.
The Conquistadores will face Westchester in next Saturday’s 8 p.m. final at L.A. Southwest College. They lost to the Comets, 65-59, in last year’s final.
“Defense, rebounding and making shots,” Haynes said about what it will take to win. “We have to make them respect us.”
Westchester (28-5) survived an upset bid by Narbonne, 62-58. Elijah Stewart, who had 27 points, scored 11 in the fourth quarter. Reverend Maduakor had 21 for Narbonne (23-9), making 13 of 19 free throws. Jamal Hicks added 18 points.
“Anthony [Hilliard] did a great job with their kids,” Westchester Coach Ed Azzam said. “They were prepared and did everything they needed to do to win. We were very fortunate to get through this game.”
Narbonne has beaten Fairfax the last two seasons to win the Division I girls’ championship, but that didn’t prevent the seeding committee from seeding Fairfax No. 1 and Narbonne No. 2 for this year’s playoffs. Narbonne Coach Victoria Sanders didn’t mind the lack of respect.
“I wanted to be No. 2 for the mental part, being the underdog,” she said.
On Saturday, Narbonne (24-8) earned a spot in next Saturday’s 6 p.m. final with a 52-37 victory over Palisades. TyBriann Jones, an improving 6-foot-2 junior, scored 17 points. La’Tecia Smith added 13 points.
Fairfax (28-6) will get its third chance to beat the Gauchos after defeating Granada Hills, 44-33. Marguerite Effa, a 6-3 junior, scored 16 points.
“I’m much more confident, and I think my girls are too,” Fairfax Coach Judi Edwards said of facing the Gauchos.