Wolverines drop league game to Chaminade, eliminated from automatic playoff bid

In the first meeting between Harvard-Westlake and Chaminade boys’ basketball three weeks ago, the Eagles’ Jake Porath ’15 watched from the sideline due to a knee injury, unable to contribute at all in the Wolverines’ eventual 75-72 upset victory.

On Friday night, Porath made up for the lost time.

The Williams College-committed center scored 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting while adding 14 rebounds and seven assists, willing Chaminade (18-7 overall, 5-5 in Mission League) to a 64-56 win at Harvard-Westlake. The Eagles clinched 4th place, the last automatic playoff spot in the Mission League, with the win,¬†spoiling the final regular season home game of Head Coach Greg Hilliard’s career.

The Eagles — playing without power forward Bar Milo ’15, who had flown to Texas for a Team USA football game on Saturday — still made their intentions clear to pound the ball inside early and often. Porath, listed at 6’9” (four inches taller than any Wolverine) got to work, scoring eight first quarter points to keep his team afloat as the Eagles struggled to shoot from outside. Despite seven first quarter points from Carter Begel ’17, the Eagles took a 16-12 lead after the first frame.

In the second quarter, the Mission League’s two leading scorers began to heat up; Alex Copeland ’15 was able to get to the basket as always, but Chaminade’s Michael Oguine ’15 also was impressive in the paint, as the two guards went at each other on both sides of the ball all night. Even though Harvard-Westlake was hit on some sketchy foul calls, Chaminade struggled from the free throw line early on, finishing 13-for-22 from the stripe in the game, as Copeland’s 11 first half points carried the Wolverines to a 31-28 lead at the half.

In the third frame, Begel began to take over, offensively carrying the Wolverines as the Eagles made solid second-half adjustments to contain Copeland. Begel scored 11 of his career-best 21 points in the third, keeping Harvard-Westlake afloat as the Eagles began to chip at the lead. Despite Begel’s efforts, Porath and Oguine (who finished with 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting with six rebounds) continued to do work inside, and when Aidan Dolan ’16 hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer for the Eagles, his squad took a 45-43 lead going into the fourth.

Late in the game, the Eagles’ go-to guy was Porath — unfortunately for Harvard-Westlake, he was still¬†dominant in the fourth, forcing Wolverine center Noah Gains ’15 (11 points on 5-for-7 shooting, 10 rebounds) into foul trouble as he continued to get the ball inside. Behind Porath and Oguine, the Eagles’ lead got as large as eight points for the Eagles before Harvard-Westlake made things interesting.

Begel hit his fourth three-pointer of the game — also a career-high — to cut the lead to five points with four minutes remaining, and then Copeland (16 points, four assists, three steals) and Aaron Glazer ’17 hit their own threes to help bring the score to 59-56 with 1:22 remaining. The large Wolverine student crowd was as loud as it had been all night, as the team looked to have a chance at another upset over the defending Division 3 State Champions.

However, Porath, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter, hit a clutch layup over Gains’ outstretched hands with 45 seconds to go, and Ali Iken’s ’17 three-pointer on the next possession was blocked by Jordan Ogundiran (10 points, seven rebounds). Chaminade took care of business on intentional fouls the rest of the way, getting an eight-point win to clinch an automatic playoff spot from the Mission League.

Before the game, both Harvard-Westlake and Chaminade came together to honor Hilliard, as the legendary coach was given his own Wolverine basketball jersey with the #30 in honor of his 30-year tenure with Harvard-Westlake. Chaminade coach Todd Wolfson, rumored to be a candidate as Hilliard’s replacement by the Los Angeles Daily News, asked him to “take it easy on us,” before Hilliard himself spoke, telling the crowd: “I want to thank you for a memorable evening; I’ll try to stay focused on basketball, but it’ll be tough.”

Even though Harvard-Westlake (12-12 overall, 4-7 in Mission League) can no longer achieve an automatic playoff spot, the squad is still essentially guaranteed to make the CIF-SS Division 4AA playoffs — the team is currently ranked 7th in the division by MaxPreps, and 32 teams end up filling the playoff bracket. The Wolverines next take on chief rival Loyola (15-9 overall, 7-3 in league) on the road on Feb. 11 at 7 P.M. Harvard-Westlake lost the first matchup to the Cubs 58-55 on Jan. 23, and is currently ranked 123rd in California by MaxPreps, compared to 27th for the Cubs.

For those unable to attend, Wednesday’s rivalry match will also be live-streamed via “High School Cube.” The link to the game can be seen here:

http://thecube.com/event/varsity-basketball-loyola-high-school-vs-harvard-w-457597

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