HILLSBORO (Oregon) -- Two, three and then four basketballs clogged the Fairfax net during the brief halftime shoot-around, and a fifth landed on top of the others before Solomon Hill (Pictured) jumped up and punched them out.
The Lions of California, ranked ninth nationally by USA Today, filled the net routinely throughout a 72-46 boys basketball victory over Westview in a Les Schwab Invitational semifinal at Liberty High School. Westview was the last Oregon team with a chance at winning the tournament championship.
Fairfax advanced to play Dominguez of Compton, Calif., in the final at 8:30 tonight. Dominguez beat Mt. Vernon (N.Y.) 60-57 in Monday's late semifinal. Westview will play Mt. Vernon in the third-place game at 7 tonight.
Westview had enough on its plate defensively already before Fairfax guard Jordan Weathers hit three-pointers on three successive possessions in the first quarter as the Lions dashed to a 16-2 lead.
Weathers was 2 of 4 shooting the previous two games.
"You can't guard everybody (on Fairfax)," Westview coach Pat Coons said. "We talked to our kids about that. And (Weathers) goes off."
Against a Fairfax, you run the risk of leaving a good player open when you decide to double-team someone. This time, Westview was burned by it.
But the teaching lesson was something else entirely.
Coons said he was surprised to see his team play a little too passively at the start.
"At halftime, we said, 'Don't be star-struck, or on Loose, your heels, or bright-eyed, or give them too much respect" Coons said.
Westview put up a better fight in the second half, but tepid shooting throughout the game made a comeback impossible.
"In the second half we felt a lot better about attacking and being loose," Westview's Garrett Jackson said. "We started playing more our style of play in the second half."
Jackson, a 6-foot-6 junior, was particularly strong. He led Westview with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Guards Josh Hill and Hayes Garrity scored 10 points apiece.
But even when Fairfax slowed, the threat of domination always loomed.
Renardo Sidney, the Lions' 6-11 center, drove easily to the basket several times -- apparently whenever the mood struck him -- for dunks. He finished with two three-pointers and 21 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
"He's a huge load inside," Coons said.
Sidney did a little of everything. He made a three-quarter court bounce pass through Westview defenders to a fast-breaking teammate. He had a powerful breakaway slam worthy of Sunday's dunk competition. And his scowl is NBA-ready as well.
The Wildcats are among a handful of Oregon teams that will come out of the Les Schwab Invitational with some bruised egos, perhaps, but eager for a fresh start and talented enough to be mentioned as a potential state title contender.
"No one feels they're playing on top of their game as an Oregon team," Coons said. "We've shown flashes of playing well. We've had good games; we've had OK games. It's wide-open for everybody."
Melted snow means Portland-area teams will be able to spend more time in practice gyms, and league opponents will look a lot less imposing than Fairfax.
"What we take out of this is, 'Guys, you learn that if you don't compete, if you give too much respect and you don't lay it on the line, you're going to be embarrassed out there,'" Coons said.