With Taper Gymnasium filled to its 1,000 person capacity for Friday night’s game against Loyola, the stage was set for the varsity boys’ basketball team to repeat its performance from a week ago and get its second consecutive upset win over a Mission League opponent.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, a few too many turnovers and missed layups throughout the night proved to be costly, as clutch last-minute shooting from Loyola gave them the edge in another tight game between the storied rivals.
Cornell commit Stone Gettings ’15 hit a three-pointer with 4.9 seconds left in the game, and Alex Copeland’s ’15 full-court desperation prayer at the buzzer was unanswered, allowing the Cubs (12-7 overall, 4-2 in Mission League) to escape Studio City with a 58-55 win over Harvard-Westlake.
“We gave it our all,” center Noah Gains ’15 said to the Los Angeles Daily News’ Tyler Keckeisen after the game. “I’m disappointed in the outcome but proud of my teammates.”
Early in the game, offense was suspiciously sloppy from both teams, as the Wolverines and Cubs both struggled to shoot early on in front of the raucous crowd. When the first quarter was complete, no individual player on either team had scored more than Max Hazzard’s ’15 four points. The game marked the first time all season that the Wolverines had been held to a single-digit number of points in the opening quarter of a game, but strong defense in the paint from Gains, who led the Wolverines with 14 rebounds on the night, helped keep the score even at nine apiece entering the second frame.
However, Loyola’s significant size advantage began to become prominent at this point, as big men Gettings and Henry Welsh ’16 started to dominate the offensive rebounds for the Cubs, who had three of five starters listed at above 6’6” (while the Harvard-Westlake roster has no one reaching that mark). Even as Gains and Aaron Glazer ’17 (six rebounds) fought hard inside, the Cubs were able to keep numerous possessions alive, as Gettings scored 10 points in the quarter to put Loyola up 26-20 at the half.
Early in the third, it looked like Loyola was ready to pull away, as the UC Irvine commit Hazzard woke up from a relatively quiet opening half. At one point, Hazzard (who finished with 19 points) scored seven points on three consecutive possessions, as the Cub lead got as large as nine points in the third quarter.
However, Copeland and Gains took over from there, willing the Wolverines back into the game with strong efforts on both sides of the floor. Gains scored all 13 of his points in the second half on 6-for-9 shooting, and Copeland was as dominant as always getting to the basket, going 8-for-10 from the free throw line on the night on his way to 20 points. Gains’ assist to Carter Begel ’17 on the Wolverines’ last possession of the quarter finished a 12-2 run in which 10 of the points were from Copeland and Gains, putting the team up 41-40 entering the final frame.
“We were playing very fast in transition in the latter part of the third quarter,” Head Coach Greg Hilliard told the Daily News. “We capitalized off Loyola’s turnovers and missed shots.”
In the fourth, Harvard-Westlake’s lead got as big as four with the help of strong free throw shooting from Ali Iken ’17 (nine points on 2-for-3 three-point-shooting), but there was simply too much production by Loyola’s “Big Three” for the Cubs to lay down for long. Gettings (22 points, 16 rebounds), Hazzard, and Welsh (15 points, six rebounds) combined for 56 of Loyola’s 58 points in the game, as their collective efforts brought Loyola to a 55-50 lead with two minutes remaining.
The Wolverines had one more brief run in them; Copeland, who led the team in scoring despite a tough 0-for-7 night from three-point-range, hit two free throws to make it a one-possession game with a little over a minute remaining. Soon after, a clutch three-pointer from Spencer Perryman ’15 (2-for-4 from downtown) with 38 seconds left sent the Wolverine crowd into a frenzy, tying the score at 55 all.
However, Gains went down with cramps on the next possession, and Hazzard attracted three defenders to himself before finding a wide-open Gettings, whose heroic shot with under five seconds remaining put the score at its final margin.
“I couldn’t be out there with my teammates, and it was tough,” Gains, who also contributed five assists and three steals, said to Keckeisen. “But we’ll bounce back.”
With the loss, Harvard-Westlake moves to 11-7 overall and 3-3 in the Mission League, still in fourth place behind Crespi, Alemany, and Loyola at the end of the first cycle of league play. The second half of the Mission League season for the Wolverines will begin on Jan. 28, when the team travels to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (9-11 overall, 1-5 in league) for a 7 P.M. game. Harvard-Westlake defeated the Knights 84-64 in their first meeting on Jan. 7, and is ranked 85th in California on MaxPreps, compared to 139th for Notre Dame.
Those who want to re-watch Friday’s game can see it on HWTV’s live-stream here:
The Daily News’ recap of the game can be seen here: