Fairfax defeats King/Drew to win City Section Open Division basketball crown
When Russell Westbrook of the Lakers shows up for a high school basketball game, you know it might have significance. He was at Roybal on Saturday night to show support for his former high school coach, Reggie Morris Jr., who was trying to guide Fairfax to the City Section Open Division championship.
Even more compelling was that 41 years ago, on March 6, 1981, Morris’ father, Reggie Sr., was the head coach when Manual Arts, led by Dwayne Polee’s 43 points, defeated Crenshaw to win the City 4-A championship before 14,136 at the Sports Arena. It’s only the second time a father and son coached City championship basketball teams.
For the record:
12:41 p.m. Feb. 27, 2022An earlier version of this report said that Fairfax High coach Reggie Morris Jr. and former coach Reggie Morris Sr. were the first father and son to coach teams to City Section boys’ basketball titles. They are the second. Jerry Marvin Sr. guided University to a title in 1954 and Jerry Marvin Jr. coached Palisades to a championship in 1969.
The Lions came out hot from three-point range, making five threes in the first quarter, and successfully neutralized high-scoring Kalib LaCount long enough to secure a 76-64 victory over King/Drew before a crowd of more than 1,400, making it the largest-attended indoor event for the City Section in two years.
LaCount finished with 33 points — including 15 in the third quarter, when he tried to engineer a King/Drew comeback. But that’s when Fairfax’s 6-foot-8 Tyler Bey stepped forward to answer with four consecutive baskets in the fourth quarter and finish with 22 points.
“Tyler came through,” Morris said. “I told all the guys, ‘This is graduation day.’ He graduated.”
Bey and Morris hugged at the buzzer. Over three months, Morris tried to teach the transfer from New Jersey how to improve his game. It was tough love sometimes. Morris would pull him from games, then put him back, then pull him again. Bey stuck to the belief and hope it would be worth it in the end. And it was.
“In the fourth quarter, we all decided to take charge,” Bey said.
Many of the players delivering top performance Saturday night were underclassmen. Sophomore David Mack of Fairfax was 10 for `10 from the free-throw line and had 16 points before fouling out. Freshman Hudson Mayes finished with 16 points. Sophomore Jared Hubbard scored 10 points. For King/Drew, freshman Donald Thompson made four three-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with 20 points.
Morris, who coached Westbrook when he was head coach at Leuzinger, arrived at Fairfax in 2019 after stints at Leuzinger, Playa del Rey St. Bernard and Redondo Union. He had spent brief time serving as an assistant at Pepperdine but wanted a return to making a difference in high school. The Lions were favored to win the 2020 championship but were upset by Westchester. They were favored again Saturday and this time came out loose, focused on defense and determined to make sure LaCount, averaging 35.2 points, was not going to beat them.
“He’s a great player,” Morris said of the 5-9 LaCount.
Afterward, father and son took a moment to hug and reflect. The son was emotional.
“It means the world to me,” Reggie Jr. said. “It’s one of the things I thought about. I wanted to live up to the family standards.”
In the City Division II boys’ final, Donovan Cornelius scored 18 points to lead LACES to a 61-46 win over Van Nuys. In City Division I girls, sophomore Grace Marot scored 15 points to lead El Camino Real past West Valley League rival Taft 45-41.
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