Free throw shooting, rebounding doom Wolverines in stunning loss to league rival Notre Dame

With Ray Mueller ’17 absent and Noah Gains ’15 hampered due to the flu, and Parsa Shoa ’16 (back) and Wolfgang Novogratz ’16 (foot) out with their respective pre-existing injuries, the varsity boys’ basketball team’s Wednesday night matchup with league rival Notre Dame had potential to be a major trap game for the squad.

Notre Dame’s C.J. Jacobs ’16 made sure that the Wolverines wouldn’t forget it.

With unparalled dominance in the paint and from the free throw line, the Knights’ junior forward carried his squad all night, putting up an astonishing 31 points and 20 rebounds to lead Notre Dame (10-11 overall, 2-5 in Mission League) to an 81-77 win over Harvard-Westlake in Sherman Oaks.

Notre Dame started the night very strongly, taking a 10-2 lead in the game’s first four minutes behind eight points in the paint from Jacobs. Gains was limited to 14 minutes due to sickness and his calf injury suffered late in Friday’s loss to Loyola, and the Wolverines sorely missed their season-long presence in the paint, as Jacobs worked Harvard-Westlake on the offensive glass all night. Two three-pointers apiece from Ali Iken ’17 and Spencer Perryman ’15 helped bring the Wolverines to within 24-20 at the end of the quarter, though, as the Wolverines looked to be gaining some momentum.

Early in the second quarter, Jacobs’ slashing and Gabe Rishwain’s ’15 (13 points) shooting kept the offense coming for Notre Dame, who scored the most first-half points of any team to play Harvard-Westlake this season.

Fortunately for the Wolverines, Alex Copeland ’15, held to three first-quarter points, began to take over offensively. Copeland, notorious all season for his quarter-ending buzzer beaters, hit one from NBA-range to end the first half, scoring 10 points in the second quarter to cut the Knight lead to 45-41 going into the break.

The Wolverines looked to have some momentum again when Iken, who finished with 20 points on 5-for-1o three-point-shooting, cut the lead to two points with a four-point-play early in the half. However, similarly to Friday’s game, Harvard-Westlake’s deficit grew in the third frame, as Notre Dame continued to exploit Gains’ time on the bench by dominating inside — the depleted Wolverines only grabbed 15 total rebounds in the game. When Rishwain drew a suspect foul and went three-for-three from the free throw line, the Knights were up 60-49 with 3:20 left in the third quarter, seemingly ready to put the Wolverines away.

However, just like on Friday, the scrappy Harvard-Westlake squad proved that they weren’t out of the running yet.

Behind Copeland’s scoring and passing, the Wolverines chipped at the Notre Dame lead, hyping up both crowds as the game got closer in the later minutes. Jacobs kept the Knights in front for a while with his scoring, but three-pointers from Perryman (who finished with nine points on 3-for-5 three point shooting and four assists) and Carter Begel ’17 gave Harvard-Westlake its first lead of the night, going up 75-74 with 3:30 to go in the game.

Unfortunately, poor free throw shooting from the Wolverines let the Knights stay in it, and Jacobs made sure that they would take advantage.

Begel scored a career-best 14 points on the night on efficient 3-for-6 field goal shooting and added four assists, but went 7-for-14 from the line, including 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Jacobs drew a poor foul call from Gains and went 2-for-2 to put the Knights up 78-77 with a minute remaining, before hitting a layup to put Notre Dame up by three with 15.9 seconds to go.

The Wolverines got a decent look on the next possession, feeding the ball to their leading scorer to work in isolation. However, Copeland, who led the team with 25 points, four rebounds, four assists, and four steals on the night, was just short on his three-point attempt with six seconds to go, as Notre Dame took possession via a jump ball and closed out their four-point win over the Wolverines.

Harvard-Westlake drops to 11-8 overall and 3-4 in the Mission League, still in 4th place due to Chaminade’s loss to Loyola earlier on Wednesday. The Wolverines next travel to 1st place Alemany (16-6 overall, 6-1 in league) for a 7 P.M. game on Friday night. Alemany defeated the Wolverines 86-75 in their first matchup on Jan. 9, and is currently ranked 19th in California on MaxPreps, compared to 103rd for Harvard-Westlake.

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