Fairfax, Vista Shine in First Night of CIF State Playoffs

Vista High’s basketball player Taurus Samuelsphoto by Bill Wechter
Photo: Bill Wechter

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LONG BEACH, CA – There was smattering of upsets – some of those of the eye-raising and “oh my goodness” variety – during Wednesday’s first night of the State Southern Regional action in boys basketball.

The most notable of those stunners game in Division I, where a buzzer-beater and near-buzzer beater ended the seasons of No. 6 seed Santa Margarita and No. 7 Foothills Christian, respectively.

In the former, junior Isaiah Morris nailed a 3 at the buzzer to help San Diego Section team Vista trip of host Santa Margarita in two overtimes, 97-94.

Morris (30), fellow junior Taurus Samuels (26), and sophomore Jordan Hilstock (20) combined for all but 21 of their team’s points as the Panthers (28-4) earned a Saturday quarterfinal game in Woodland Hills against No. 3 Taft, which handled JSerra, 63-49.

Vista knocked off Taft, 60-52, on Dec. 30 in the Silver Division championship game of the first-ever Classic at Damien Tournament in La Verne.

In the “near-buzzer beater”, freshman Clark Slajchert busted his 3 with two seconds to play in overtime to give Oak Park its 65-64 win to end the sparkling prep career of UCLA-bound guard Jaylen Hands at Foothills Christian.

Slajchert and junior post Riley Battin scored 24 points apiece and will help their team try to knock off Eastvale Roosevelt for the first time in three attempts this season when No. 2 Roosevelt and Oak Park hook up Saturday evening in Riverside County.

Roosevelt, Oak Park, Taft and Vista – which make up the lower side of the Division I bracket – each played in the Classic at Damien last December.

So did (of course), top seed Damien (the Spartans hammered Fresno Central Wednesday night, 102-70, as senior forward Justin Hemsley scored 29 points) as well as Corona Centennial (which edged Narbonne Wednesday, 69-67).

The “non Classic at Damien teams” still in contention in Division I, Fairfax and Redondo, took different routes to their Saturday quarterfinal games.

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Fairfax (26-5), which closed its L.A. City season with consecutive Open Division losses to Westchester and Narbonne, edged host Long Beach Poly, 54-49.

The Lions burst out to a 9-0 advantage then had to come back on the Jackrabbits late in the fourth quarter.

But, behind the play of Loyola Marymount-bound forward Zafir Williams (who finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds), the Lions had taken a 44-42 advantage and were in possession of the ball with less than three minutes to go.

But Williams couldn’t handle a pass inside the lane and, after the turnover, junior Shawn Booker hit a transition 3 to put the Lions back up by a point.

After a stop, Fairfax ground nearly all of the 35-second shot down before Booker – after a pass from Jamal Hartwell – hit another 3 as the buzzer sounded.

After a Kirk Smith steal, sophomore Ethan Anderson appeared to drag his foot after a jump stop (if an official would have thought so, it would have been at traveling violation) before powering in a layup to push the Lions up by six points with 57 seconds to go.

Coach Steve Baik’s Fairfax squad – which visits Damien Saturday evening for a 6 o’clock quarterfinal – got double-figure scoring from Booker (16 points), Hartwell (16) and Anderson (11), as well as seven points, eight rebounds, four blocks and that oh-so-critical late steal from Smith.

Redondo burst out to a big advantage over Bakersfield Ridgeview (the Central Section’s Division II champions) and then held on to improve to 26-6 with its 93-81 victory.

The Sea Hawks, who play at Centennial Saturday night, got 30 points from another Loyola Marymount-bound player, guard Ryse Williams.

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