The saying goes that it’s hard to beat a good team three times in a season.
The Fairmont Prep boys’ basketball team tried to do that saying one better Thursday night in a CIF State Southern California Regional Division III quarterfinal game against visiting Pacifica Christian Orange County.
Fairmont Prep was already 3-0 against Pacifica Christian. The Huskies prevailed twice in overtime over the Tritons on their way to winning the San Joaquin League title, and then earned another victory last Saturday for the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA title.
Fairmont Prep coach Joedy Gardner said the Huskies treated Thursday’s game as if it was the fourth game of a seven-game series. If so, the Huskies swept as the Tritons suffered a season-ending loss.
Junior guard Atin Wright scored 20 points for Fairmont Prep in a 63-51 victory.
The No. 4-seeded Huskies (27-7) will host No. 8 La Jolla Country Day in a semifinal game on Saturday night. La Jolla Country Day beat No. 16 Los Angeles University 73-57 in another quarterfinal game on Thursday.
Junior forward Judah Brown had 20 points and 11 rebounds for No. 5 Pacifica Christian (24-9), which failed to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time in the program’s brief three-year history. Junior forward Josh Sims added 13 points.
“As you know, it’s tough to beat a team twice,” Gardner said. “It’s even tougher to beat them three times, then to come back and beat them a fourth time? Our mentality was to relax, get better each game and not worry about what they’re doing. We both know each other so well. They’re well-coached, they have great athletes.
“I’m just really proud of [my team]. They stayed focused, stayed composed. We made a lot of free throws in the end that really helped us.”
The Huskies were balanced in scoring. Senior guard Kofi Aboagye overcame early foul trouble to score 12 points, while senior guard Abel Jimenez scored 11. Sophomore center Pape Cisse and freshman guard Kristian Johnson each scored 10.
Johnson scored all of his points after intermission, including two big three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“We played the percentages and took away all of the things we wanted to take away,” Pacifica Christian coach Jeff Berokoff said. “Hat’s off to that kid. I think he’s been shooting 20% from three all year, and he made a few really big shots. I thought our kids fought really hard, it just didn’t fall our way.”
The teams’ previous three meetings this season were decided by a combined total of nine points, and Thursday’s game was closer than the score would indicate. Pacifica Christian took its only lead of the second half, at 42-40, on Brown’s jumper with 6:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But Fairmont Prep responded with Johnson’s three-pointer, which sparked a 9-1 run.
The Tritons never got closer than four points the rest of the way, and the Huskies made nine of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to help seal their win.
For Pacifica Christian, Berokoff expressed pride in a program that has advanced to two CIF Southern Section title games in three seasons. The Tritons will only lose senior forward Solomon Davis, who scored nine points Thursday, to graduation.
“I love this group,” Berokoff said. “Our mission this year wasn’t to beat Fairmont Prep, it was to build something special. This is a third-year varsity program, and I think the things the kids are doing in building a school and building a team are incredibly special. You look at all the teams we play, they’ve been around for 40, 50, 60 years, and this is our third year and we’re in games like this? I’m just so proud to be their coach.”
CIF State Southern California Regional Division III playoffs
Fairmont Prep 63, Pacifica Christian 51
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Pacifica Christian 12 – 13 – 11 – 15 — 51
Fairmont Prep 13 – 12 – 15 – 23 — 63
PC – Brown 20, Sims 13, Davis 9, Mallette 6, Jiwani 3.
3-pt. goals – Brown 1, Jiwani 1.
Fouled out – Mallette, Bahadoor.
Technicals – None.
FP – Wright 20, Aboagye 12, Jimenez 11, Jemerson 10, Cisse 10.
3-pt. goals – Jemerson 2, Cisse 2, Wright 1, Jimenez 1.
Fouled out – Aboagye.