May 17, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

‘We’re still champions,’ Fairmont Prep coach says after team eliminated from So Cal Regionals

Abel Jimenez of Fairmont Prep defends against Ray Lu of La Jolla Country Day Saturday night.

About 15 minutes after the conclusion of Saturday’s CIF Southern California Division III semifinals, Fairmont Prep Coach Joedy Gardner emerged from the locker-room fairly upbeat considering his team had just been eliminated from post-season play.

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“We’re still champions,” Gardner said in reference to the Huskies CIF 4AA title a week before, a first for the school.

No. 8 seeded La Jolla Country Day held off a late rally by No. 4 Fairmont Prep and pulled off a 73-62 upset Saturday night at Fairmont Prep to advance into the CIF Southern California Regional Finals Tuesday night against Crescenta Valley.

“I’m proud of my guys; they busted their butts this year,” Gardner said. “Nobody expected us to win league, nobody expected us to win CIF and certainly nobody expected us to get this far. That’s certainly a credit to the kids.”

Fairmont Prep made a late comeback after trailing by 12 points in the second half and their fans got fired up. The Huskies (27-8) cut the lead to 55-53 on a basket by Kofi Aboagye with 3:48 left in the game but La Jolla was able to gain control and finished strong.

“We cut it to two and that was big,” Gardner said. “It just didn’t happen tonight.”

La Jolla was led by Ryan Langborg, who had 28 points, 17 coming during a sensational first half performance when he sank five 3-pointers. He hit six 3-pointers in all. The Torreys made 10 3-pointers in the game. Freshman James Hapgood added 14 points for La Jolla.

La Jolla led 40-31 at halftime and led by 12 points in the third quarter. But Fairmont Prep got back into it cutting the lead to 49-42 after three quarters.

“We shot it really well in the first half,” said La Jolla Coach Ryan Meier. “We knew the way their zone was, we had to shoot the ball. If our guys were tentative against their length we would have had a serious problem and our guys were aggressive and attacked it and it gave us some confidence.”

Langborg, a 6-4 senior guard, led the way.

“He’s good,” Meier said. “I would like to say we go as Ryan goes but I think the way Ryan has played, he’s made everybody better. It’s gotten to the point that we don’t totally rely on him, but when he’s on and everybody else is playing well, we’re really special.”

Fairmont Prep was led by Aboagye and Atin Wright, who had 19 points each. Pape Cisse added 14 points and Lamin Niang had 14 rebounds.

“I told them how proud we were and it was a pleasure coaching them,” Gardner said. “Our staff was just honored to coach them. I told them to keep their heads up. They are champions no matter what. That’s something that’s going to stay with them forever. They’re all getting rings.

“I told them it’s going to sting a little bit for a few days and it should. But it wasn’t because we didn’t play hard. It wasn’t because of our effort. It’s just they really played well in that first half and we were fighting uphill the rest of the way.”

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com