Wolverines blow 18 point lead, fall to rival Loyola again

The last time Harvard-Westlake boys’ basketball saw Stone Gettings ’15, the Loyola forward hit a three-pointer with five seconds left to stun a sold-out Wolverine crowd and allow his team to escape Taper Gymnasium with a thrilling 58-55 win on Jan. 23.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the Cornell commit picked up where he left off in the rematch.

Gettings put up a career-high 30 points and 12 rebounds, as his dominance in the paint carried the Cubs (17-9 overall, 9-3 in Mission League) to a 79-71 comeback victory over Harvard-Westlake Wednesday night in the final regular season game of Head Coach Greg Hilliard’s career.

“[Coach Hilliard] told us that he’s really proud to coach us,” Alex Copeland ’15, who kept the Wolverines alive with his own career-best of 42 points on 18-for-31 shooting, said to the Los Angeles Daily News’ Evan Barnes. “We really wanted to win, being his last Mission League game, but he told us that we would still honor him to battle our hearts out and play our hearts out for him.”

Once again, the game was a battle of size vs. speed; Loyola featured 6’7” Josh Lavergne ’16, 6’8” Gettings and 6’10” Henry Welsh ’16, while Harvard-Westlake had three starters under six feet in 5’9” Ali Iken ’17, 5’8” Spencer Perryman ’15, and 5’9” Carter Begel ’17.

Early on, it looked like speed would be the clear victor. Harvard-Westlake forced numerous first quarter turnovers on its way to 16 steals in total, denying Loyola’s bigs the opportunity to get the ball while doing an excellent job finishing in transition offensively. Copeland had 17 points in the first quarter alone, and Iken added a pair of three-pointers, as the Wolverines led by as many as 18 points. Copeland and UC Irvine commit Max Hazzard ’15, who finished with 18 points, began to trade points offensively, as the Wolverines finished the quarter with a staggering 31-15 lead.

“We started the game with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of confidence, and we were hitting shots,” Copeland said to Barnes.

However, Hilliard tried to get his depleted squad — only six players averaged at least 10 minutes per game in Mission League play — some rest early in the second frame, and Loyola started to chip at the lead quickly by controlling the paint. Gettings began to get the ball inside, and made the most of his opportunities, scoring 12 points in the second quarter while dominating the offensive glass to bring Loyola back into contention. Copeland had nine more points in the frame to put himself at 26 points in the first half, but the work of Loyola’s big men cut the deficit to 42-37 going into the break.

“Loyola executed their game plan really well, they took advantage of their size,” Copeland said. “Although we did a good job limiting Henry’s and Stone’s looks early on, their size wore down on us.”

The story was the same early in the second half; the undersized Wolverines continued to struggle to contain Loyola in the paint, only grabbing 17 team rebounds in the game. Gettings scored 10 more points in the third quarter, and a monstrous slam dunk by Welsh contributed to a 14-5 run to open the half for Loyola, as the Cubs took a five-point lead at one point in the third quarter. Scoring from Iken (who finished with 15 points on 5-for-11 three-point-shooting) and Copeland brought the score to 57-57 at the end of the frame, however, as the Wolverines found themselves in yet another nail-biting league contest.

The start of the fourth looked like the start of the game for Harvard-Westlake; Copeland scored six points in the first 50 seconds of the frame with the help of strong perimeter defense from Iken (four steals on the night) and himself (five steals), as Harvard-Westlake found themselves with a 63-57 lead with seven minutes remaining.

However, just like it had been all game, Loyola dared the Wolverines to get stops inside, and the outmanned Harvard-Westlake squad couldn’t hold on. Gettings and Hazzard dominated offensively as Harvard-Westlake’s shooters went cold, finishing 7-for-29 from downtown as a team, leading to a 17-2 run for the Cubs and a nine-point lead with 1:45 remaining.

Three-pointers from Iken and Copeland cut the lead to three points with a minute to go, as the Wolverines refused to back down despite their height and depth disadvantages.

Unfortunately, that was as close as it got for the Wolverines. Center Noah Gains ’15 (six points, seven rebounds) fouled out late in the fourth, which led to even more offensive boards for Welsh (16 points, 13 rebounds), as the Cubs controlled possessions and closed out their eight-point win to sweep the rivalry for the second consecutive year.

“We battled hard, and Noah got into foul trouble because he was battling hard,” Copeland told Barnes. “We played our hearts out, but their size definitely won it for them.”

The regular season is complete for Harvard-Westlake with a 12-13 overall record, and a 4-8 Mission League record identical to the 2014 team. The team finishes in a tie with Sherman Oaks Notre Dame for fifth place in the Mission League — outside of the top four automatic qualifiers, but still essentially locks to make the 32-team CIF-SS Division 4AA playoff bracket based on league strength. If Bishop Montgomery and Orange Lutheran move up to the Open Division, and the divisional rankings from MaxPreps hold to be true, the Wolverines will be given the #6 seed in the bracket.

While the team’s next opponent is still to be determined, the silver linings from today’s tough loss are clear.

“[Coach Hilliard] is proud of us,” Copeland said to Barnes. “Even though we’re competitive, it was a good bout, and we have to keep our heads up high.”

The official playoff brackets will be released at 2 p.m. on Sunday, at the cifss.org website.

The Daily News’ recap of the game can be seen here:

http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20150211/harvard-westlake-boys-basketball-falls-to-loyola-in-mission-league-season-finale

 

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