On the night of Head Coach David Rebibo’s birthday, there was little celebration to go around for the Wolverines. After a stormy Friday more suited for the tropics than the San Fernando Valley, Alemany crashed the Fanatics’ tropical-themed party at Taper Athletic Pavilion, had their cake, and ate it, too.
The Warriors won 61-45 against a Harvard-Westlake squad which had neither Ali Iken ‘17 nor Cassius Stanley ‘19 at its disposal. The two were sidelined from the festivities by a grade 2 ankle sprain and an injured hand, respectively. Stanley is scheduled to undergo an MRI in the very near future.
Rebibo acknowledged that not having the pair indeed changes things, but his expectation for the team remained the same, despite having three freshmen in the starting lineup.
“The expectation is that we’re going to try and make the right play consistently, and we’re going to move the ball offensively, and defensively compete at a high level,” Rebibo said. “That doesn’t change. Maybe some of the scheme changes, some of our plays and the functioning of those plays change, but nothing else really changes as far as our preparation and the expectation level for our guys and the level that we need to compete at.”
With two big names scratched from the guest list, Johnny Juzang ‘20 took it upon himself to provide the entertainment in the 1st half, scoring all but two of the Wolverines’ 20 points prior to halftime.
However, Juzang was not the only man to earn VIP status in the opening two periods–the Warriors’ D.J. McDonald ‘18 scored 19 points in that span. WIth his team trailing 7-2 with about 3:30 to go in the opening quarter, McDonald caught fire and ventured beyond the metaphorical velvet rope, scoring the game’s next 10 points in the ensuing three minutes. The Wolverines wouldn’t get the lead back for the rest of the night.
McDonald makes all three.
Alemany – 30
Harvard-Westlake – 20
19 points for DJ McDonald.
18 for @JohnnyJuzang
13 for the rest
— H-W Chronicle Sports (@HWCsports) January 21, 2017
Alemany Head Coach Trey Meeks saw to it at halftime that Juzang would be slowed down significantly. His adjustment paid dividends, as the freshman scored just 3 points in the second half.
“We didn’t leave [Juzang],” Meeks said. “I said, ‘We’re not going to leave him. We’re not going to leave him, we’ll put somebody on him at all times and and stay attached. (In the first half) we just didn’t stay attached and he lit us up. I mean, he’s good, and he showed it…so I had a couple guys, that was their job in the second half, stay with him at all times.”
The adjustment was not lost on Rebibo.
“[Alemany] just didn’t help off of [Juzang] at all, completely face-guarded him the entire second half and just limited his touches,” Rebibo said.
On the flip side, Rebibo was pleased with the Wolverines’ having held McDonald to seven points in the second half.
“I thought we did a better job of identifying, matching up early, and just getting a contested hand up and not letting [McDonald] get into a rhythm. I believe we held him to 7 in the second half, which is where he should’ve been in the first half,” Rebibo said.
In the postgame locker room talk, Rebibo’s message to his team is one that has become a mantra in Philadelphia, three words that form the unofficial motto of the NBA’s 76ers: Trust the process.
“I just said to those guys that I was proud of how they competed,” Rebibo said. “We made mistakes, I thought we did not freely hit the open man like I would have liked us to in the second half, and we’ve got to kind of trust the process. Until we start trusting the process, we’re going to be a roller coaster.”
— Óscar. (@OscarPerizHoops) January 12, 2017
That process, which Rebibo would elaborate upon, is much less controversial than that of former Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie.
“The process of [believing] in what we’re doing on a daily basis and how we want to do it,” Rebibo explained. “From freely hitting the opening man offensively, moving, cutting, screening, executing, to guarding the ball, containing the dribble, being in help spots, boxing out, being tough; simple things that we talk about in the process of making a great team. We’ve seen we have the ability, it’s just the consistency that we have to continue to work on.”
The Wolverines are 4-2 in Mission League play, having faced all of their league opponents once. Their first two opponents in the second round robin are St. Francis and Loyola, both away games.
Alemany improved to 6-0 in Mission League and jumped to 10th in MaxPreps’ California state rankings. When asked for the secret to the team’s success, Meeks answered simply and without hesitation:
“Hard work. That’s all we believe in, is good old-fashioned hard work.”