With 2.1 seconds left in overtime, Crespi’s Brandon Williams ’18 hit a flailing, one-handed 16-footer to give the visiting Celts a 77-75 victory over the Wolverines.
Coming into the game, the Celts were ranked 10th in the CIF-Southern Section and are the defending Division IV State Champions. Harvard-Westlake entered play as the 18th best team in the Southern California.
This matchup had intriguing story lines due to the fact that Harvard-Westlake Head Coach David Rebibo formerly served under Crespi Head Coach Russell White as an assistant. Also, this would be the first high school meeting between arguably the Mission League’s best player and McDonald’s All-American Game Nominee De’Anthony Melton ’16 and one of the top freshmen in the nation in Cassius Stanley ’19.
However, Crespi would be without starting center Mitch Mykhaylov ’16 who missed his second consecutive Mission League matchup due to illness.
From the start, Melton was a man on a mission, scoring Crespi’s first six points. He was aided by Taj Regans ’18 and Williams who put the Celts up 18-12 after one quarter. For the Wolverines, Wolfgang Novogratz ’16 led the squad in first quarter scoring with six.
Throughout the first half, the teams traded baskets, with Crespi leading the entirety of the first two quarters. Stanley did not score his first points of the contest until there were just four minutes remaining in the half.
However, at halftime, the Celts only led the home team 34-33. It was a balanced effort in the first half in terms of scoring. Carter Begel ’17 had 13 points and Novogratz and Stanley had eight apiece. Crespi garnered 11 from Melton and nine from Williams in the first half of play.
The trio of Melton, Regans and Williams extended the Crespi lead all the way to 10 points multiple times during the third period, but Rebibo’s feisty squad cut the Celts’ advantage to 49-47 at the end of three quarters with the help of an Aaron Glazer ’17 three pointer, four free throws from Novogratz and a Stanley put back layup.
With approximately five minutes remaining in the game, Melton, who had been dunking with ease the entire evening missed a wide-open one-handed jam, which was retrieved Glazer and shoveled to Ali Iken ’17 for an open three-pointer, followed by yet another Novogratz layup evened the score at 55.
Novogratz, who formerly attended Poly Prep (NY), consistently utilized what he classifies as his East Coast grit to get into the paint and score for the Wolverines.
It took almost four entire quarters for the electric Fanatics section and packed alumni area to witness a Stanley dunk, but he delivered with 2:48 to play, to make the score 59-58 in favor of the Celts.
With just under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and Crespi leading 62-59, Regans went down with an injury in his calf, but quickly reentered the game after being helped off the floor by several teammates and medical personnel.
After two clutch free throws by Williams to put the Celts up 64-61 with 9.4 seconds left, Iken hit the Wolverines’ most important shot of the season thus far, tying up the score at 64 with just 2.5 seconds left to play. Crespi called a timeout and Melton was able to get a decent look from 25 feet which rimmed out, sending the game into overtime.
“I have been putting in extra work this week in preparation for this game, and when Coach Rebibo called up the play for me to hit the shot I knew I could do it,” Iken said. “Honestly, when I took the shot, I couldn’t even see the rim, but I have shot on this basket enough and I felt that it was going to go in.”
As the teams traded baskets throughout the overtime, Crespi led by their USC signee Melton and the Wolverines guided by a combination of Novogratz and Stanley, the intensity inside of Taper Gymnasium wore on.
With the score 73-70 and Crespi leading with just a minute left, Stanley was fouled on a mid-range jumper attempt and knocked down both free throws. However, Begel promptly fouled Williams who sunk both of his foul shots to leave the Wolverines in the same situation as they were in at the end of regulation: down by three with under ten seconds to go.
Again, the Wolverines did not disappoint the home crowd, as Novogratz sunk his first three-pointer of the game with 2.1 seconds left in overtime to even the score at 75.
But, Williams who scored efficiently all night, hit a baseline jumper to hand the Wolverines their third loss of the season.
Novogratz scored 22 points, Stanley added 21 and Begel chipped in with 15. For Crespi, Melton had 29 and Williams scored 25, including the game-winner.
Harvard-Westlake fell to 12-3 overall with the loss and 0-1 in Mission League play. They will face Notre Dame on the road on Friday at 7 p.m.
“We played a great game from start to finish, but at the end, there were a couple of key turning points, which ultimately caused this result,” Novogratz said. “This game was just a validation of how good we are and how good we can be. They are the top team in our league right now, but we will see them again.”