By Jack Davis
After an 11-game winning streak that spanned 45 days, a CIF championship and two state playoff victories, the boysâ varsity basketball team finally met its match, losing to Ocean View High School 79-63 in the state semifinals March 14 at Pauley Pavilion, ending its dreams of a state title. Despite the loss, the Wolverine players remained proud of everything they had accomplished.
“We had a great run,” guard Austin Kelly said, who led the Wolverines with 16 points. “We have no reason to hang our heads. Losing doesnât take anything away from our season, from our CIF Championship,” Kelly said.
The Wolverines blew by opponents in their run to the semifinals, wearing teams out with their full court press and up tempo style, leading to double digit victories in every one of their playoff games.
The run started with an 88-45 victory over Gabriellino, and was followed by victories over Calabasas, Bonita and Sonora by 20, 14, and 12 points respectively.
The victory over Bonita put the Wolverines in the CIF Southern Section Championship, ending the three-year CIF Championship game drought for the basketball program. Pitted against Gahr High School, the Wolverines were out-rebounded and made turnovers early, and trailed 58-56 after three quarters, marking the first time the Wolverines trailed going into the fourth quarter in nearly two months.
But the Wolverinesâ breakneck pace caught up to Gahr, with the Wolverines outscoring the Gladiators 31-17 in the fourth quarter, giving them an 87-75 victory and a CIF Championship.
“This is the best feeling Iâve ever felt in my life,” swingman Nate Bulluck â10, who suffered a dislocated jaw in the fourth quarter, said after the game ended.
The victory symbolized the unity of this yearâs Wolverine squad, as in the championship game seven different players contributed eight points or more.
At the beginning of the season the team adopted the African word âubuntuâ as its team motto which loosely translates to “I am because we are.”
After defeating Gahr, the Wolverines defeated visiting Ridgeview 70-47 in the first round of state playoffs, setting up a rematch with Gahr in the state quarterfinals in Taper Gymnasium.
Going into the game Hilliard said the Wolverines would need, “everything we brought in the championship game and more,” in order to defeat Gahr a second time saying, “itâs harder to beat an opponent twice.”
In the end the Wolverines proved they were ready for the challenge, jumping out to a double digit lead midway through the first quarter and never looking back on their way to a 97-77 victory.
“That was the best game we played all year,” Hilliard said after the game.
However, in the next game the Wolverines were unable to carry over the momentum from the Gahr victory, as this time it was Ocean View jumping out to a 28-17 lead after one quarter, a deficit the Wolverines would never get lower than eight.
As Hilliard sees it, the loss does not dampen what he refers to as “an unbelievable season.”
“This team is by far the hardest working team Iâve ever coached,” Hilliard said. “The intensity they brought to every game and practice made them just a fun group to coach.”