So what did we learn Tuesday night from the state regionals? No matter how you perform in the CIF finals, anything can happen with a second chance.
Five days ago, Fairfax coach Harvey Kitani was watching the City Section championship finals from high above in the Galen Center. This morning, he woke up ready to prepare his team for a third meeting with Westchester, this time in the state regional semifinals.
On a night when Fairfax center Renardo Sidney had a subpar game and limited by foul trouble in the first half, it was the junior backcourt of Jordan Weathers (23 points) and Donte McFrazier (19 points) that carried the Lions to an upset 79-64 road victory over the Monarchs in the Division I state regional quarterfinals Tuesday night.
Weathers connected on a career-high seven 3-pointers, most of them coming on open looks and with the shot clock winding down. McFrazier did most of his damage in the first half with 11 points but it was his free throws down the stretch that held off any chance of a Mater Dei comeback.
“The kids stepped up and did what they had to do,” Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani said.
With Sidney spending the last 5:08 of the first half on the bench, the Lions extended their lead from one to six by halftime. They ended the half and started the third quarter on a 14-2 run that was eerily similar to the 15-0 run Riverside King had used to overwhelm Mater Dei in the CIF finals.
It was a far different team than the one that looked overwhelmed in the City semifinals when Taft defeated them by 22 and dared them to shoot from the perimeter. This time, the shots fell and the Lions never looked back.
What made Weathers’ night more remarkable was that he played on an injured right ankle that he suffered against Taft. He didn’t play in the team’s opener against Fresno Edison but after he practiced before the game, he knew he’d be ready to go.
“I knew I had it,” Weathers said, “I just told them keep feeding me the ball.”
The end result was another shocking loss for Mater Dei, who five days ago were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Then came a 15-point loss to Riverside King in the CIF Division I-AA finals and now, a 15-point loss to Fairfax that ended their season and the careers of the North Carolina-bound Wear twins, David and Travis.
They combined for 33 points in their final game and although junior guard Tyler Lamb chipped in with 19 points, it wasn’t enough to keep the two-time defending state champions alive for another run.
It was the Monarchs’ first loss at home since Lake Oswego (OR) and current NBA rookie Kevin Love came in and defeated them at the 2007 Nike Extravaganza. For the first time in five years, Coach Gary McKnight’s squad won’t be traveling to Sacramento but he kept things in perspective as he focused on what his team did in addition to what didn’t do Tuesday.
“This team is 66-3 the last two years, there’s not too many high schools that wouldn’t take that,” McKnight said.
That’s the beauty and heartbreak of the state regionals. New life for teams that were left for dead and abrupt endings for those who didn’t expect defeat so soon.
Leuzinger is probably feeling that way too. A disappointing 59-55 loss to Thousand Oaks in the Division II-AA finals was long forgotten Tuesday as they overwhelmed Bakersfield Garces 108-74 in their Division II regional opener. They have a Thursday date with Rialto Eisenhower, who blasted University 102-72.
Redemption also came for Bishop Montgomery, a team that was bounced in the CIF semifinals. The No. 1 seed in the Division IV regionals won their opener against Kingsburg, 71-62. The Same is true for Loyola, who lost to Eisenhower in the CIF finals but rebounded to defeat San Diego Hoover on the road.
It’s not just the boys but the girls, too. Inglewood and Marlborough cast aside their poor performances in the CIF finals with upset road victories Tuesday and will head to Orange County seeking redemption as they face Irvine Woodbridge and Santa Ana Foothill respectively.
If you’re not doing anything Thursday night, it wouldn’t hurt to check out a game near you. Everyone is playing for a regional championship berth on Saturday and given how most of them got there, the end-game celebration will be a little sweeter.