Fairfax High boys' basketball Coach Harvey Kitani has plenty to worry about on and off the court.
After his team beat Fremont, 46-45, Friday night to advance to the City 4-A Division championship game, Kitani's wife, Shannon, went into premature labor.
Harvey, 40, and Shannon, 31, are expecting their first child.
Shannon, who is in her 30th week of pregnancy, stayed in the hospital before returning home Wednesday. Doctors hope to delay delivery for at least two weeks.
"She was a premature baby and her mother was born premature," Kitani said. "It's been a hectic week."
Jair Fray made a 15-foot shot with two seconds left to give the Lions a 46-45 win over Fremont. Fray had a team-high 16 points, including the last eight points.
Fairfax point guard Duane Davis will be the key to Saturday's game against Crenshaw.
If Davis can handle the ball against Crenshaw's press and penetrate through the key, the Lions have a good chance of defeating the two-time State and City champions.
"I think we're quicker than they are and they are bigger than we are," Kitani said. "We know they're going to press and rebound well. It's a matter of how well we handle the pressure."
Westchester entered the 1994-95 basketball season as the favorite to win the City 4-A title.
So what happened?
The Comets were overmatched by Crenshaw and lost, 73-59, in the semifinals Friday at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
"I thought we had more talent," Westchester guard Danny Walker said. "If it were a game of five on five, we would have won easily. But with the number of players Crenshaw used off the bench, we couldn't keep up with them."
Ronnie Arch proved to be the Comets' biggest nemeses, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Arch, a 6-foot-6 swingman, should be a familiar face to Westchester fans--he played for the Comet junior varsity as a freshman.
"It was another one of those Westchester turned Crenshaw players," said Westchester standout Ben Sanders. Other Comets turned Cougars include Rico Laurie, Tremaine Fowlkes and Maurice Robinson.
It was an especially disappointing finish for Sanders, who played only 10 seconds as a freshman when the Comets won the City title in 1992.
"I felt like I'm leaving high school with some unfinished business to settle," said Sanders, who scored 20 points. "We had a championship-caliber team, but we came up short."
Since his freshman season, Danny Walker has been rumored to be transferring to another school. Those rumors intensified with the L.A. Unified District's open enrollment policy.
"I heard I was going to Fairfax, Inglewood, Mater Dei and maybe Crenshaw," said Walker, who was The Times' 1994 Westside player of the year as a sophomore. "Those rumors are not true. I plan to be back at Westchester next fall.
"I think next year, we will have a pretty good team."
Despite a third-place finish in the Del Rey League, St. Bernard will play in the Southern Section Division IV-AA championship game for the second time in three seasons. The Vikings meet Corona del Mar at 8 p.m. Friday at the UC Irvine Bren Center.
"I think the importance of playing in the playoff has really been watered down by all these championship games," said St. Bernard Coach Jim McClune, who hopes to be one of the 10 boys' Southern Section champions to be crowned this weekend. "The fact remains that our boys and girls have benefited from this playoff system. But I think it diminishes the importance of winning a title."
The Vikings (17-11) last won a league championship when they were in the Mission League in 1992.
Despite having mixed success in league competition, the Vikings have reached the semifinals four consecutive seasons, including Friday's win over Twentynine Palms, 71-69. Darren Harris had 31 points to lead the Vikings.
Whether they win or not, the Vikings continue to the Southern California Regionals, which they hope to use as a springboard to the State Division IV finals in Oakland.
"It's great if you win because it's a reward," McClune said. "But if you lose, it's kind of a booby prize."
ONE TOO MANY
During the final two minutes of its City 4-A semifinal game against Crenshaw, the Westchester girls' basketball team got caught with too many players on the court.
"I went totally brain-dead," Westchester Coach Ann-Marie Powledge said about her team's 55-54 loss to Crenshaw Friday.
After Robyn Walker put the Comets ahead, 55-49, the Cougars called timeout with 1 minute 44 seconds left. When play resumed, the Comets inadvertently had six players on the court.
"I was watching the girls running the press in front of me when I noticed the Crenshaw coach screaming at the officials and walking on the court. I said to one of the players, 'What's wrong with him?' It didn't take long for me to figure it out."
Naila Moseley and Devon King made baskets to cut Westchester's lead to 54-53 before the referees discovered the extra player and called a technical foul with 1:02 left. Moseley made two free throws and the Comets failed to score the rest of the game.
Crenshaw turned the ball over twice in the final 20 seconds, but Westchester failed to capitalize.
"We had an opportunity to win, but our passing let us down," Powledge said.
Westchester returns all five of its starters next season.
St. Bernard Coach Lori Pawinski would give anything to get a second chance in the Southern Section playoffs. The two-time state and Southern Section defending champion Vikings were beaten by Morro Bay, 45-41, Saturday in the Division IV-AA semifinals.
"We played badly and they must have shot 60% in the fourth quarter," Pawinski said.
The Vikings were very much in the game with 30 seconds left. Trailing by a point, sophomore Nicole Monette missed an eight-foot jump shot and the Vikings were forced to foul.
"She wasn't suppose to shoot, but she did," Pawinski said.
The Vikings reached the semifinals with a starting lineup that included three sophomores and a junior. April Simmons, who made all three of her shots, is the only senior.
Junior Traci Oaks, who played with a 101 temperature, led the St. Bernard with 15 points.
George Kuntz, Pepperdine's first women's soccer coach, resigned after two seasons to accept the men's coaching position at UC Irvine.
Kuntz guided the Waves to a two-year record of 23-11-2. He previously coached the men's program at Cal Lutheran from 1988-92. In 1989, he became the first women's soccer coach at Cal Lutheran and continued to coach the men's team.
The 14th annual Westside tournament is scheduled to begin Friday, signaling the opening of the high school baseball season.
Games will played at fields from Ventura to San Pedro.
Ventura Buena, Redondo, Newhall Hart and Westchester head the 32-team tournament, organizer Chuck Ice of Crossroads said.
Competition continues with second- and third-round action on Saturday and Tuesday. The finals are scheduled for March 11 at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium.