Tyler Bey leads Fairfax past Birmingham in high school basketball semifinals

Tyler Bey of Fairfax scored 22 points on Tuesday
Tyler Bey of Fairfax scored 22 points Tuesday to help lift Fairfax to an overtime win over Birmingham.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

For three months, through November, December and January, 6-foot-8 New Jersey native Tyler Bey and Fairfax coach Reggie Morris Jr. were in a nonstop coach vs. pupil tug of war. There was repeated drama on the court. Every other minute, Bey was being pulled from games, then put back in so that Morris could explain what he was doing wrong.

“It was tough love,” Bey said. “I just had to be patient. I follow him blindly. I knew where it was going to lead me in the long run.”

On Tuesday, in the City Section Open Division semifinals, it was Morris jumping off the bench clapping and yelling, “Yeah!” as he watched all the hard work by Bey pay off. Bey had 22 points and 10 rebounds and made two free throws with 7.9 seconds left in regulation to tie the score and enable the Lions to pull out a 73-66 overtime win over defending champion Lake Balboa Birmingham. Fairfax will face King/Drew on Saturday at a site to be announced for the Open Division title.

It was a wild playoff game between two schools that battled in the semifinals last season, when Birmingham came back from a double-digit deficit to win. This time, the Patriots (17-8) had the ball and a two-point lead in regulation when they made a turnover with 11.7 seconds remaining. Bey received the pass on the inbounds play and drove on the baseline. Birmingham was called for a blocking foul instead of a charge. Bey made both free throws for new life.

In overtime, with Birmingham’s big man, Larry Olayinka, unavailable after fouling out, the Lions (15-6) pulled away. Freshman Hudson Mayes, who had 17 points, scored three baskets in overtime. Romello McRae made five of six free throws. Kory Blunt led Birmingham with 19 points, and Tyson Jackson had 16. Olayinka had 10 points and six blocks.


Bey, a senior who transferred from Newark, N.J., has always had the talent to be one of the best in the City Section. Now he’s beginning to show it.

“He’s catching up,” Morris said.

In another standout performance from the No. 1 player in City Section basketball, point guard Kalib LaCount finished with 37 points to help King/Drew defeat top-seeded Taft 72-59 in the other Open Division semifinal.

In City Division I, Van Nuys Grant will meet top-seeded Westchester in the final. Jeremiah Windham scored 23 points in Grant’s 63-60 win over Crenshaw. Westchester defeated Chatsworth 67-44.

In Open Division girls’ play, Birmingham will face Westchester in the final. Janna Holley scored 30 points in Birmingham’s 58-47 victory over Palisades. Westchester knocked off No. 1-seeded Granada Hills 49-42.

In Southern Section Division 1, San Juan Capistrano JSerra and Playa del Rey St. Bernard will play for the championship. JSerra defeated Bellflower St. John Bosco 60-44. Rob Diaz scored 19 points for the Lions. St. Bernard beat Long Beach St Anthony 66-64.