It took eight months of rehabilitation, but on Saturday night in the City Section Open Division semifinals, Akil Hall Reese of Westchester finally got back on the basketball court after tearing a knee ligament last summer.
The senior guard made his first shot attempt of the season, a three-pointer in the first quarter. He made another three-pointer in the second quarter. It was a hint of what might be still possible, because the Comets are very much alive in the postseason after a 78-38 rout of Dorsey that earned them a spot in next Saturday’s championship game at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Westchester will play Fairfax, a 67-52 winner over El Camino Real in Saturday’s second semifinal.
“I try not to get down on myself,” Reese said. “Everybody said to stay positive and I’d be back. I wish I could have played all year, but I’m back for the playoffs. It feels real good.”
Reese was a key player for last season’s Division I runner-up team. He was cleared by his doctor to resume contact a week ago, and Coach Ed Azzam decided to hold him out until he got a week of practice. How much he’ll be able to contribute the rest of the way will depend on his progress in practice.
“He played well,” Azzam said. “He’s still not 100%, but he’s a smart player.”
From a 9-0 start to a 16-point halftime lead to a 34-point margin after three quarters, the Comets (21-11) had little trouble against Dorsey (23-4) before a packed gym at Roybal High. Keith Fisher, a rapidly developing 6-foot-8 junior, finished with 21 points.
“We played real well,” Azzam said. “They’re a good team and our defense was excellent and we made shots. When we do that, we’re tough to beat.”
Lindsey Drew scored 22 points and Lorne Currie had 16 in Fairfax’s win over El Camino Real. Drew and Currie took charge in the third quarter, leading an 11-0 surge to wipe out a two-point halftime deficit.
“We just picked it up,” Drew said. “We knew weren’t playing to our full potential. We wanted to come out strong and just win the game.”
The best team in Southern California, Torrance Bishop Montgomery (29-1), rolled to a 69-47 victory over Orange Lutheran in the Southern Section Open Division semifinals at Hope International University. Freshman David Singleton scored 19 points for the Knights, who will play the winner of Tuesday’s Mater Dei-Etiwanda semifinal next weekend.
Down by 16 points entering the fourth quarter, Palisades (22-10) rallied for a 66-59 victory over Fairfax in an Open Division semifinal. Palisades will play Narbonne (23-5) in next Saturday’s 6 p.m. final.
Sophomore Chelsey Gipson, who scored 30 points, had 11 points in the quarter. Bianca King had 13 of her 19 points in the quarter.
“Coach said to pick it up and get excited and that’s what we did,” Gipson said.
Said Palisades Coach Torino Johnson: “We couldn’t get momentum. The game was too slow and stagnant. We want to play fast.
“In the fourth quarter, we went back to what’s worked for us. We picked up the tempo.”
Marguerite Effa scored 27 points for Fairfax (19-12), the defending Division I champion. The Lions were trying to give retiring Coach Judi Edwards a shot at a repeat. It was the fourth time Fairfax has lost to Palisades this season.
La’Tecia Smith, who has won two City titles and is headed to Seton Hall, rallied Narbonne to a 57-52 win over View Park. She finished with 23 points. Also critical were four consecutive free throws by Audrina Villela in the final two minutes.
Lauryn Catching led View Park (26-3) with 15 points.
“I think it’s going to be a great matchup,” Smith said of facing Palisades.