Call him the “MaxPreps Prophet.”
The brightest star on a stage full of studs, Westchester’s Elijah Stewart awed the main gym at Rancho Mirage High with a 37-point performance Friday night to surge the Comets into the tournament’s Invitational Division semifinal with a 66-58 victory over St. Edward (Ohio).
“I’m not a player to look at my stats after a game,” said a modest Stewart. “I just care about the win. I don’t like to lose. I’m a competitor.”
With a deft, inside-and-out scoring touch combined with superb elevation, Stewart scored 23 of his points in a first half that saw Los Angeles-based Westchester take a 34-18 lead to the break.
St. Edward, the No. 1-ranked team in Ohio according to MaxPreps, employed a stout full-court trapping defense to claw back into the game with a 10-3 run to open the third quarter, yet the Eagles could never soar closer than a seven-point deficit in the game’s final period.
Westchester, defending champions at MaxPreps, is now just two games removed from becoming just the second back-to-back champion in tournament history and first since Harvard-Westlake donned consecutive crowns in 2009 and 2010. No team from outside of California has ever taken the event’s top division championship.
“We wanted to come out here, play some good competition, compete, and try to win a championship like last year,” Stewart stated. “We were the underdogs last year, and we’re the underdogs this year, too. So we might as well do it again if we can.”
Of Westchester’s manic pace that saw them upend tourney favorite Fort Bend Travis in last year’s title game and take them to the semis this year, Stewart added:
“It’s all in the coaching. The coaches keep us pushing up-tempo and playing our game. And to run people out of the gym; make them want to quit.”
In the victory, the Comets also received a 13-point night from guard Layon Gooden. St. Edward was led by 12 points apiece from seniors Malcolm Walters and Marsalis Hamilton.
The tournament’s No. 2 overall seed, Westchester faces the No. 7 seed in Capital Christian at Rancho Mirage’s main gym at 6 p.m. Saturday.