It’s Western League vs. West Valley League in City Section Open Division basketball semifinals

Derrick Taylor and Nick Halic stand side by side smiling
Taft coach Derrick Taylor, left, and Birmingham coach Nick Halic both have their teams in Saturday’s City Section Open Division semifinals.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

First-year Fairfax coach Jamal Hartwell has his basketball team in the City Section Open Division semifinals with some impressive coaches. There’s three-time City champion Derrick Taylor of Taft and two-time City champion Nick Halic of Birmingham. There’s also Dewitt Cotton of Westchester. He was a Comets assistant for 32 years to 15-time City champion Ed Azzam.

“I’m going against some longtime coaches,” Hartwell said. “I feel good about it. We’ll be ready.”

The Open Division boys’ semifinals on Saturday at Pasadena City College will match Taft against Westchester at 5:30 p.m., followed by Fairfax against Birmingham at 7 p.m. In the Open Division girls’ semifinals, Crenshaw will face Westchester at 1 p.m., followed by King/Drew taking on top-seeded Granada Hills at 2:30 p.m. Tickets will be available on beginning Thursday.


Bishop Brooks helps deliver a 66-43 victory for Taft, which will play No. 8 Westchester in the City Section Open Division playoff semifinals.

Feb. 10, 2023

The big surprise last week was No. 8-seeded Westchester upsetting No. 1 Narbonne. Cotton was serving the final game of a three-game suspension for pulling his team off the court with 1.3 seconds left in a nonleague loss to Crenshaw. He’s back coaching his team this week. He said he has apologized to his players.

The Comets lost twice to Fairfax during the Western League season but Cotton said of his players, “They’ve gotten a lot better.”

Michael Hill, a transfer from Santa Monica, has stepped up as a scoring threat to help veterans Angel Corona and Jonathan Choyce. They will need to be at their best to beat a surging Taft team that has Keyon Kensie Jr., who is averaging 25 points a game.

Fairfax went unbeaten in the Western League behind Darius Carr, a midseason transfer, and veteran point guard David Mack. Hartwell was an assistant to Harvey Kitani, Steve Baik and Reggie Morris Jr. before being hired as head coach this season when Morris left for Redondo Union. All three won City titles with the Lions, and now it’s Hartwell’s turn.

Birmingham is a young team that split with Taft during West Valley League play. Halic likes his collection of players because at any time, a different player could lead the team in scoring.

High school boys’ basketball: City playoff results and updated pairings.

Feb. 15, 2023

“We can beat anybody on any given night when we’re playing our best,” Halic said.

A freshman, Caleb Newton, scored 21 points for the Patriots in their win over San Pedro.

The girls’ semifinals are more like an opportunity for No. 1 Granada Hills and No. 2 Westchester to have one final preparation game before having their showdown for the City title on Feb. 25 at PCC.

Granada Hills went unbeaten in the West Valley League. Westchester went unbeaten in the Western League.