With the game on the line in the City Section Open Division basketball semifinals on Saturday night, Taft coach Derrick Taylor took a risk. He ordered his team to foul Millard Hill of Fairfax with 32 seconds left and the Toreadors down by two points.
“He was the only guy not offensive,” Taylor said.
Hill, an All-City defensive back in football, had struggled with his free-throw shooting.
“It was a smart play on their part,” Fairfax coach Steve Baik said.
Except the strategy didn’t work, because Hill made both free throws, and the Lions held on for a 59-53 victory at Roybal to advance to Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. final at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
“I had to come through for my guys,” Hill said.
Taft (26-8) trailed by as many as 11 points but refused to go down quietly. Sophomore Demetrius Calip scored 17 points, Kihei Clark 12 and sophomore Khalil Haywood 10 points.
Fairfax (22-8) received 17 points from Jamal Hartwell and 16 from Robert McRae, who had missed the last seven games with an ankle injury. McRae was not at 100% but gutted it out.
Fairfax will play Western League rival Westchester (29-5) for the third time this season in the championship game after the Comets took care of Granada Hills 58-38.
The Highlanders got as close as 14-12 before West-chester used its size and athleticism to pull away.
“I enjoyed that game,” Westchester coach Ed Azzam said. “So many teams don’t play to win. He [Granada Hills coach Don Loperena] did everything he could. They were overmatched, which was good for us.”
Zellie Hudson scored 15 points, Kymani Pollard 12 and Kaelen Allen 10.
Westchester and Fairfax have split their two games this season.
“I think we have to play a lot harder,” Hudson said. “What we’re focused on is winning every quarter. We have to attack their zone.”
Granada Hills couldn’t miss from three-point range in the first quarter in the Open Division girls’ semi-finals at Roybal.
Emily Mitchell made four threes. Hayley Berfield made three. The High- landers opened a 15-point lead and never looked back in a 61-42 victory over El Camino Real. Granada Hills will play top-seeded Fairfax in Saturday’s 5 p.m. championship game at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Berfield finished with 29 points. Mitchell scored 22 points. Sophomore Haylee Aiden had 23 rebounds.
“We moved the ball well and knocked down open shots,” Granada Hills coach Jared Honig said.
It was the third time this season the Highlanders have knocked off their West Valley League rivals.
Kianna Hamilton-Fisher scored 13 points for El Camino Real.
Fairfax defeated Western League rival Westchester 77-64. Chassen Gutierrez led the way with 20 points, and Tricia Delph added 18 points.
Destiny Brown led Westchester with 23 points.