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Fairfax High School’s boys basketball team continued its journey toward the state playoffs with a win against Taft High School on Tuesday in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) playoffs.
After losing to Narbonne School on Saturday, the team needed the win to ensure a spot in the state tournament and a chance at third place in CIF.
The Lions dominated on the court during Tuesday’s game, and by the end of the first half, the Lions had a 7-point lead after neutralizing Taft’s offense.
In the second half, the Lions took control offensively scoring 37 points and sinking four 3-point shots. In the last minute, the Lions scored 6 points to end the game 62-54.
Senior shooting guard Donald Gipson said he and his teammates were focused on playing hard throughout every minute of the game.
“It was a tough week, but we fought hard against a very good team,” Gipson said. “We’re going to continue to play hard because we know every position counts. We have to keep playing smart to get another [win].”
Gipson scored 8 points in Tuesday’s game. Kitani said the team worked well together throughout the game and was strong offensively and defensively.
“It was a very difficult game for us because we were coming off a hard loss,” Kitani said. “We had to regroup, and this time if you lose, you’re out. We needed everyone to play mentally strong and with [as few] errors as possible, which they did.”
The Lions play today for third place in the CIF playoffs, but getting another win, Kitani said, is crucial in determining their first game in the state playoffs.
“If we can win this last [CIF] game, combined with our body of work during the season, we can secure a high seeding for [the] state [playoffs],” Kitani said. “That means we’ll have a better chance of getting a home game and progressing even further.”
The Lions need to win three games in the state playoffs to move on to the championship game in Sacramento. Advancing to the next round, Kitani said, is beneficial not just for this season, but for next season as well.
“The longer we can prolong the season, the better we’re able to improve our team,” Kitani said. “We have a good mix of younger players, and the longer we play, the more our youth matures and gets better.”
Kitani said he’s confident his team can come out on top today because they’ve been strengthening team chemistry throughout the season.
“For us, we have to keep playing good basketball and make good plays whether it be on offense or defense,” Kitani said. “The thing that I cherish is the fact that we have control over what we do. If we play good ball, which we’re capable of doing, then we can beat this team.”
The Lions, who tied for first place in the Western League, are now 29-4. They have a home game today at 7 p.m. against Birmingham High School. Next week, the team moves on to the state playoffs. The time and location of next week’s game will be determined after today’s game.
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