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Centennial ends Fairfax's near-perfect season with 76-75 regional playoff win

Centennial ends Fairfax's near-perfect season with 76-75 regional playoff win
Centennial's Jaylen Clark gives the Huskies the go-ahead layup in a 76-75 win over Fairfax on Wednesday. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Fairfax High’s basketball team was so close to perfection this season. Unfortunately for the Lions, they could never figure out how to defeat Corona Centennial.

Centennial ended the Lions’ season Wednesday night with a 76-75 victory at Fairfax in the opening game of the Open Division Southern California Regional playoffs. Jaylen Clark made a layup with 24 seconds left and then the Huskies got two defensive stops to defeat the Lions for the second time this season. Fairfax, the City Section Open Division champions, finished 27-2.

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Clark was magnificent in many areas. He scored 25 points and also turned in a defensive masterpiece on All-City guard Ethan Anderson, who never got the chance to deliver a potential game-winning basket. He had the ball in the final seconds but strong defense by Clark forced him to make a pass to Justyn Hunter for a final shot as the buzzer sounded. It wasn’t close.

“I thought the last three quarters he played his best defense of the season,” Centennial coach Josh Giles said.

Centennial (27-5) matches up with the Lions in terms of athleticism, and Fairfax struggled not to commit fouls in the fourth quarter. Fairfax rallied from an eight-point deficit to take a 75-74 lead on two free throws by Hunter with 1:18 left. But the Lions missed a layup, creating a fast-break opportunity for Clark, who was battling the UNLV-bound Anderson the whole game.

“I’m super tired,” said Clark, a 6-foot-5 junior who has similar strengths as Anderson. “It got personal. He was talking. We started going after each other.”

Anderson ended his four-year career doing his best, contributing 20 points and 11 assists. Ronald Mitchell and Keith Dinwiddie each finished with 17 points for Fairfax.

Centennial advances to Saturday’s semifinals at Santa Ana Mater Dei. The Monarchs defeated Torrance Bishop Montgomery 68-53. Devin Askew had 23 points.

Westchester defeated Temecula Rancho Christian 74-57. Jordan Brinson scored 29 points.

Westchester will play at top-seeded Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on Saturday. The Trailblazers defeated Torrey Pines 82-38. Cassius Stanley scored 19 points.

In Open Division girls, Alexis Mark scored 16 points in Sierra Canyon’s 59-41 win over Clovis North. Los Angeles Windward defeated Etiwanda 54-42 and will play Sierra Canyon for a third time. Mater Dei defeated Bishop Montgomery 54-48.

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