Fidelis Okereke leads King-Drew into Division II basketball semifinals

King/Drew's Fidelis Okereke had 26 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in a 55-45 win over Hillcrest on Thursday in the state playoffs.
(Michael Owen Baker/ For The Times)

The improbable journey of Fidelis Okereke continues. With each basketball game, the 6-foot-7 senior who was discovered in a P.E. class three years ago keeps making leaps and bounds .

On Thursday night, he scored 26 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, made three blocks and showed that a center could cover a guard in leading Los Angeles King/Drew (25-8) to a 55-45 victory over visiting Riverside Hillcrest to advance to the semifinals of the Southern California Division II regionals. King/Drew will play at Eastvale Roosevelt on Saturday.

“When you put your heart into a team, you can do it,” Okereke said. “I want to get to state. This court is willing me, pushing me.”

Okereke is usually asked to guard the other team’s big man, but he was assigned to cover San Jose State-bound 6-3 guard Sebastian Mendoza for much of the second half. Mendoza finished with 26 points but Okereke got some blocks and took Mendoza out of his comfort zone in showing a different dimension on defense.


“It was new but something needed,” Okereke said. “My first thing is always defense. That was a challenge. I felt motivated because if I did well, we could move on.”

King/Drew players are playing with a chip on their shoulders from blowing a lead and losing to Westchester in the City Section Open Division semifinals.

“This is our second chance,” Okereke said. “This is our redemption.”

Okereke scored 10 points in the first quarter but went scoreless in the second quarter while getting blocked several times by 6-11 Chris Evans of Hillcrest. He adjusted in the second half. He also showed he could make clutch free throws. Hillcrest fouled him with 46 seconds left. He made both ends of a one-and-one, once again showing how much he continues to improve.


“We feel he’s very receptive,” coach Lloyd Webster said. “He’s a great learner. He accepts criticism and gets better.”

In Division I, Riverside Poly and La Verne Damien played the longest game in state playoff history. It took six overtimes before Damien prevailed 128-123. Malik Thomas (41 points) of Damien sent the game into overtime with a shot at the end of regulation. Austin Cook (35 points) again saved Damien with a shot at the end of the second overtime. D.J. Davis scored 58 points for Poly.

“Everyone in the building was exhausted,” Damien coach Mike LeDuc said. Damien will play at Altadena Renaissance in Saturday’s semifinals.

Los Angeles Ribet eliminated No. 1-seeded Bellflower St. John Bosco 61-58. Ribet will play at Los Angeles Windward in Saturday’s other Division I semifinal. Windward went on the road to defeat Torrey Pines 60-55. Sophomore Dylan Andrews scored 27 points. Renaissance defeated San Juan Capistrano JSerra 51-46. Renaissance and Ribet come from the Harbor League.


In Division II, top-seeded La Canada St. Francis held off Lake Balboa Birmingham 48-42. Andre Henry finished with 25 points. In Division III, Woodland Hills El Camino Real defeated Santa Maria St. Joseph 71-68. Kyle Braun scored 31 points. Arroyo Grande defeated Woodland Hills Taft 67-56. Connor Angle made seven threes for 21 points.

In Division IV, Harbor City Narbonne eliminated No. 1-seeded Aquinas 72-57. LeBron James was in attendance watching Palisades defeat San Ysidro 58-49.

In Division I girls, Studio City Harvard-Westlake advanced to the semifinals with a 65-50 win over Los Angeles Marlborough. Kiki Iriafen finished with 20 points. Harvard-Westlake will play at San Diego Cathedral Catholic on Saturday.