The best way to attack a sagging zone defense is make some outside shots. Westchester’s Jeremiah Turley, Kevin Bethel and Zellie Hudson took care of that.
The guards opened the way for 6-foot-6, 260-pound Kaelen Allen to bully Fairfax defenders inside on Saturday night.
It translated into a 14th City Section basketball championship for the Comets and coach Ed Azzam. Their 63-53 victory in the Open Division championship game at Cal State Dominguez Hills could be attributed to a lesson learned.
On Jan. 31, the Comets (30-5) lost to the Lions by 17 points in a Western League game. This time, the Comets were methodical in attacking the zone, patiently and unselfishly passing the ball to open players.
And on defense, the Comets did something few opponents have done — they neutralized Fairfax All-City guards Ethan Anderson and Jamal Hartwell.
“They were our focus to stop them,” Azzam said. “We did everything in our power to make sure they didn’t beat us.”
Turley made four three-pointers and finished with 15 points. Hudson added 13 points, and Bethel made two three-pointers and finished with 10 points. Allen muscled his way for 20 points.
“We all had to do our roles and knock the shots down,” Turley said.
Robert McRae scored 15 points for Fairfax (22-9). Anderson added 14 points and Hartwell 11. Kirk Smith stormed off in the fourth quarter after fouling out with eight points.
Afterward, while walking down the line of players shaking hands, Azzam took a moment to comfort Fairfax players.
“They should be proud of what they accomplished,” he said. “We just ended up on the right end this time. It could be different next time.”
The first half couldn’t have gone much better for Westchester, which led 31-21 at halftime. The Comets patiently attacked the Fairfax 1-2-2 zone defense. Hudson, Turley and Bethel each made a three-pointer to loosen up the zone for Allen.
Hartwell went scoreless in the first half but came out on fire to start the third quarter. He scored five points during an 8-0 run. Fairfax got as close as 32-31.
The Comets were without standout guard Jordan Brinson, who suffered a broken rib in the second Fairfax game Jan. 31 and hasn’t played since. Hudson and Turley effectively passed the ball and got teammates involved in the offense.