By Robbie Loeb
The Wolverines clawed their way back from a fourth quarter double-digit deficit, but fell just three points shy of their Mission League rival, the Loyola Cubs, in a 77-74 loss Friday night. The Cubs swept the season series with tonight’s victory, reclaiming second place in league behind Alemany, with still one week of games left in the regular season.
The Wolverines and Cubs played at the Matadome at California State University, Northridge, a neutral site to accommodate both student bodies after last year’s matchups were packed beyond maximum capacity.
The team was back at full strength as University of Utah-commit small forward Josh Hearlihy ’12 started his second straight game after being out since December with a partially torn patellar tendon. The 6-foot-7 Hearlihy, with forward 6-foot-5 Derick Newton ’14 and 6-foot-8 center Zena Edosomwan ’12, completes the Wolverines’ starting frontcourt, which combined for 64 of the team’s 74 points. Edosomwan and Newton put up 24 points apiece and Hearlihy added 16.
The Wolverines started off hot, building an early first quarter lead over the Cubs. Hearlihy hit a 3-pointer from the top of arc to give the Wolverines a 17-13 lead with a minute and a half to go in the opening period, then Jay Kleinbart ’12 stole the ball and finished on the break, sending his team into the second quarter with a six-point advantage.
The Wolverine starters were on the floor to start the second, but their lead quickly vanished after the Cubs’ press defense forced turnovers to spark a 9-0 run and a five point lead. Hearlihy snapped the Wolverines’ scoring drought with a two-point jumpshot, but Loyola responded with one of their own. The Wolverines then turned it over on three of their next four possessions and Loyola kept increasing its lead until Harvard-Westlake Head Coach Greg Hilliard finally called a timeout after seeing his team’s six-point lead turn into a seven-point deficit at 30-23 in just four minutes.
But it would only get worse for the Wolverines after the timeout, as sophomore point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright continued to terrorize the Wolverines on defense and offense by stealing, scoring and dishing his way to a 38-25 lead with less than a minute to play in the half. The Wolverines headed to the locker room down 38-26 because of 10 turnovers in the second quarter.
“We lost a little bit of poise and we gave up big points in a row,” Hilliard said. “Our goal tonight was to make sure we made the key stops and didn’t allow them to have an eight to 10 point run and we didn’t do that right during that stretch. Other than that second quarter, I think our guys played the way we hoped they would.”
The Wolverines’ fortunes took a positive swing in the second half, as Sheng nailed a 3-pointer to start the third, but Cartwright responded immediately with a bucket from 15 feet out. Newton then hit an and-one layup on a third opportunity after Sheng and Edosomwan both missed shots from inside.
On the next Wolverine possession, Edosomwan hauled in shooting guard Francis Hyde’s ’13 mid-range miss and slammed it home emphatically.
After Loyola made two free throws, Hearlihy twisted and turned for a double-clutch layup through traffic. The Wolverines followed that with a third-straight defensive stop and Newton capitalized on the stop with a pull-up jumper from just inside the arc, cutting the once 13-point deficit to just four at 42-38.
Loyola scored out of a timeout with a runner in the lane, then scored again to help ward off Harvard-Westlake’s third-quarter surge. The game became very back-and-forth from there, as Hearlihy hit a 3-pointer on another third-shot opportunity, followed by two Loyola free throws. Then Newton drove hard to the hole, drew a foul and sank both free throws to make it 48-43.
The teams continued trading buckets after Edosomwan made his third-straight shot from the post. The game finally slowed down, after a Loyola missed three straight but the Wolverines continued to put points on the board, finishing the quarter down 60-53.
The Harvard-Westlake Fanatics erupted in an “I believe” chant at the start of period to try and spark their team to a comeback. After both sides missed their first shots of the final quarter, Jackson-Cartwright grabbed a rebound and pushed the ball quickly up the court to found an open man in the corner for a fastbreak 3-pointer, extending Loyola’s lead to 10.
The Wolverines continued their domination on the offensive glass when Edosomwan scored inside after grabbing his own miss. On the ensuing Wolverine possession, Edosomwan and Hearlihy displayed the chemistry they’ve built after four years together with a simple yet explosive give and go through the post. Though Hearlihy missed the double-clutch layup, Edosomwan grabbed the miss put it in plus a foul, but couldn’t complete the three-point opportunity.
With six minutes left in the contest, Harrell made tough shot from corner of key while falling to the floor, putting his team ahead eight at 65-57. Loyola exploited their speed advantage once again, pushing the break and scoring on an uncontested layup after Hyde missed a layup on a baseline drive. Hyde then failed to connect on a wide-open shot from long distance, but Edosomwan, the largest man on the court by several inches, gave him a chance at redemption with an offensive board, buy Hyde blew an easy one inside and the offensive trip came up empty.
Loyola extended their lead to 69-57 with two free throws, but then Hearlihy was fouled in backcourt, and responded with two of his own from the line. Loyola broke down the Wolverines’ interior defense with good ball movement on the next possession, resulting in a wide-open layup for Harrell, who put his team up 12.
Edosomwan was fouled in the post and split the free throws with four minutes remaining quarter, before senior forward Khaliq Bedart-Ghani hit a floater in the lane over the outstretch arms of Edosomwan, prompting a timeout to be called by the Wolverines.
Sheng missed a shot from deep out of the timeout, but Edosomwan continued his raid of the offensive boards before committing a double dribble in post, for the first Wolverine turnover of quarter.
All seemed hopeless for the Wolverines, down once again by 13 at 73-60 with three minutes left to play and momentum firmly with the Cubs, but Edosomwan swatted away a layup right before the shot clock expired and the Wolverines took that spark and ran with it.
Hearlihy nailed a basket from just inside the arc on a dribble pull-up off of a screen to make it 73-62, then forced a jump ball defensively to gain possession for the Wolverines. Jackson-Cartwright deflected Sheng’s inbound pass intended for Hearlihy straight up in the air, but Hearlihy came up with it the loose ball and found Edosomwan with a no-look pass wide open underneath the basket for the slam.
With two minutes remaining, Loyola still held a firm lead at 73-64, but momentum had shifted to the red and black.
Bedart-Ghani missed the first free throw in a one-plus-one situation, and then Newton grabbed the board and dribbled all the way down the court for a layup.
Sheng gambled defensively trying to rip Jackson-Cartwright from behind, but Edosomwan was there as a safety net to swat away Jackson-Cartwright’s layup. Loyola recovered the ball following the block and Edosomwan intentionally fouled, but Loyola missed the free throw for the second straight trip.
Edosomwan followed the team’s breakdown defensively by scoring effortlessly from block to put the score at 75-68 with 56 seconds left. Loyola again missed from the free thrown line after getting intentionally fouled, allowing the Wolverines to keep a slimmer of hope.
Loyola hit a layup following a missed 3-pointer by Hearlihy to put their lead back at nine. Edosomwan received the ball under the basket and missed two open layups but grabbed his own rebounds and finally finishing on his third try. Newton stole the inbound pass and made layup on his second try after blowing the first open one, decreasing the deficit to five at 77-72 with 6.8 seconds remaining.
Loyola fans began chanting “drive home safely” and singing Paul Leka’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” but then Hyde poked the ball loose after the inbound, Hearlihy picked up the loose ball, stepped back behind the arc, pump faked once and drew a foul on a 3-point shot attempt.
Down by five with a chance to make it a two-point game at the line, Hearlihy sank the first from the charity stripe. The second hit back iron and bounced straight up above the height of backboard, then miraculously fell through the net. Down by three, the Wolverines needed a miss, offensive rebound and a 3-pointer to tie the game. Hearlihy purposely missed the third attempt off back of the rim and Edosomwan tried to tap it back out to Sheng at the 3-point line but Jackson-Cartwright came away with long board and dribbled out the few seconds remaining, sealing the 74-77 win for the Cubs.
“I was very impressed with how they finished and how they didn’t quit,” Hilliard said. “When you’re down by 13 with a couple minutes left and you still get a chance, that’s all you can hope for when you’re down by that much. I was very proud of them.”
“It was just one game, and we’re going to come back, finish out the season strong and hopefully we can get a good run going into CIF,” Sheng said. “[The loss] will definitely fuel our team to play better against Crespi and hopefully we can get a win against them.”
The Wolverines play Crespi Monday, who they beat last month on a shot inside by Edosomwan as the final buzzer sounded.