Harbor City Narbonne basketball Coach Anthony Hilliard is always smiling while wearing a suit and tie at games. Nothing seems to faze him, even when seemingly half of his team was busy playing for the state champion football team.
He knew those players eventually would return, get into basketball shape and turn their athleticism into a huge asset. It was all on display Saturday night at Roybal High in Los Angeles as Narbonne pulled off a historic victory in defeating Fairfax, 51-40, to earn a spot in next Saturday's City Section Open Division championship game at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
It's the first time in school history that Narbonne has reached an upper-division basketball final. Considering that All-City safeties Jamal Hicks and Daniel Brown are in the starting lineup, it was no surprise that defense keyed the victory. Fairfax, the defending champion, made just three of 17 shots in the first half in falling behind, 31-11.
D'Mauria Jones led Narbonne (23-6) with 17 points. Hicks had 12. Ethan Anderson scored 13 points for Fairfax (28-4).
In the other Open Division semifinal, Westchester defeated Dorsey, 65-57. Keith Fisher scored 23 points and had 13 rebounds.
The Comets will play the Gauchos in the championship game at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Crenshaw (18-12), a 16-time City Section champion, advanced to the Division I final with an 83-78 victory over No. 1-seeded Fremont. The Cougars came back from a seven-point deficit after three quarters. Lamar Harris scored 23 points, Ryan Campbell 19 and Ramone Wagner 15.
In the other semifinal, Hamilton defeated Gardena, 72-51. Justin Gerber and Louis Walker scored 16 points apiece. Crenshaw and Hamilton (12-16) will square off at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
In Division II, Bernstein (26-5) defeated Eagle Rock, 77-70, with Joel Towers scoring 21 points.
Palisades girls win
It's rare to hear Palisades Coach Torino Johnson scream "Nice!" But he was a very happy coach in the third quarter when his team went on a 12-0 run en route to a 79-39 win over Legacy in a City Section Open Division girls' semifinal.
Kayla Merrill-Gillett finished with 21 points and Chelsey Gipson had 14 for the Dolphins (23-8), the defending Open Division champs, who avenged an early season loss to Legacy.
Palisades will play El Camino Real (24-8) in Saturday's 6 p.m. final at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Sophomore Kianna Hamilton-Fisher scored 17 points in the Conquistadores' 43-38 win over Granada Hills.