Kaelen Allen, 6 feet 6, 260 pounds, and Maurice Tutt, 6-4, 240 pounds, have bodies perfectly suited for playing offensive tackle in football. Instead, they’re basketball players at Westchester High, and before a packed gymnasium on Friday night, they made rival Fairfax crumble in the fourth quarter while muscling their way for easy baskets.
“Coach set up the game plan to pound it inside,” said Allen, who finished with 24 points in Westchester’s 62-53 victory.
For three quarters, the battle between the City Section’s top two teams was evenly matched. There were 15 lead changes. It was the Fairfax guards against Westchester’s big men. But the Lions (11-5, 2-1) were getting worn down. Westchester was getting baskets by feeding the ball to Allen, a transfer from Fontana AB Miller. And Tutt scored eight points in the second half.
Westchester (17-3, 3-0) finally began to pull away after consecutive three-pointers by Jordan Brinson and Kevin Bethel. The Comets opened a 13-point fourth-quarter advantage.
All-City guards Jamal Hartwell and Ethan Anderson scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, for Fairfax. The Lions received no offensive help from anyone else with the exception of Shawn Booker, who made three three-pointers in the third quarter.
Westchester’s man-to-man defense was outstanding. Veteran Robert McRae went scoreless and Fairfax center Kirk Smith was held to four points. Last season in this same matchup, Smith had 10 blocks and nine rebounds in a Fairfax win at Westchester.
“The plan is always to pass it inside,” Westchester coach Ed Azzam said. “Sometimes teams don’t let us. Sometimes the big guy doesn’t go after it. Today he was motivated. If you have a good inside game, then you have a better chance. Perimeter play comes and goes.”
Azzam, in his 39th season, has won 13 City championships. The Comets’ win establishes themselves as No. 1 in the City Section and puts them in first place in the Western League.
“They stuck with their game plan and knew what their strength was,” Fairfax coach Steve Baik said.
But there’s still a Jan. 31 game at Fairfax. The Lions will certainly make adjustments and try to stop Allen and Tutt.
“We did a good job playing to our strengths, but they’re outstanding,” Azzam said. “It was the first game of at least two.”
These two schools have the best basketball rivalry in the City Section. Fairfax assistant Josh Shipp has played in his share of Westchester games and was asked if he wanted to suit up.
“Of course,” he said. “That energy as a child comes back. It brings back those jitters. In this game, kids are playing for everything.”