Basketball losing slide continues with league loss to Crespi

Cole Jacobson

Behind dominant performances from stars DeAnthony Melton ’16 and Mitch Mykhalov ’16, and some spotty officiating in the second half, Crespi (17-6 overall, 6-2 in Mission League) turned a tight game at Harvard-Westlake into a blowout, as the Celts held the H-W varsity boys’ basketball team to its lowest scoring output since December 2007 in a 61-36 win over the Wolverines on Monday night.

The game was a defensive battle early on; Harvard-Westlake’s quick guards were actively interrupting passing lanes and getting steals, but the size of Crespi’s Melton and Mykhalov in the paint was difficult for the Wolverines to overcome. Carter Begel ’17 (three steals in the game), Alex Copeland ’15 (four steals), Ali Iken ’17 (five steals) and Spencer Perryman ’15 (three steals) were very dominant defensively, helping the Wolverines force 12 first-half turnovers, and when Copeland found Aaron Glazer ’17 for a three-pointer on the last possession of the first quarter, the Wolverines had a 12-8 lead at the end of the first frame.

“Coming off that tough loss to Alemany last Friday, we wanted to come out and attack, show people that’s not who we were, and that we could rebound from a tough loss and play hard,” Begel said to the Los Angeles Daily News’ Evan Barnes.

The second quarter brought more of the same; the Wolverines struggled to get any points in the paint, while Mykhalov began to do work offensively to get his team back into the game. Three-pointers by Copeland and Iken kept the Wolverines in front briefly, but the presences of Melton (five blocks) and Mykhalov (two blocks) in the paint kept Harvard-Westlake in check offensively — the Wolverines were held to a season-low 24 percent shooting effort from the field. Mykhalov started to dominate on the offensive glass (finishing with 10 rebounds), and he ended up with 12 of his 19 points in the first half, helping Crespi to a 22-20 lead going into the break.

The Wolverines were still in it at this point, but Melton began to take over in the third. After an offensively quiet first half, in which the “league MVP” according to Barnes was held to four points, he began to dominate from inside and outside, leading the Celts to a quarter-opening 16-2 run that nearly put the game out of reach for the Wolverines. Melton had 12 points in the third quarter alone and finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, giving Harvard-Westlake issues on both sides of the floor all night.

“We lost our aggressiveness, we lost our tenacity on defense and we stopped playing together on offense, so things got kind of out of hand,” Begel said to Barnes about the differences between the first and second halves.

There looked to be some life for Harvard-Westlake when Glazer (six points) and Copeland (13 points, four assists) scored seven points in the last two minutes of the quarter, cutting Crespi’s lead to 41-29 entering the fourth.

However, if Crespi hadn’t sealed the game yet, the officiating crew made sure to finish the job.

In the first 30 seconds of the fourth quarter, Noah Gains ’15 (eight rebounds) made a leaping steal off of an inbounds pass to Melton, but was called for an inexplicable foul on the play; soon after, a Glazer block was questionably whistled for not only a shooting foul, but also a technical foul after Glazer’s facial expression showed some discontent at the call. Consequently, Melton got to shoot four free throws (all of which were made), and Crespi got possession back as well, as Mike Krkeyan ’15 made a layup to give Crespi a 6-0 run before the Wolverines had even touched the ball in the fourth quarter.

With Crespi’s lead up to 20 points after another iffy foul call on Begel led to two more Melton free throws, the benches began to clear with roughly six minutes remaining, as subs played out the remainder of the game for both teams. Crespi’s lead grew with the help of fan favorite Benny Blackwell ’15, who sent the “Cabana” crowd into hysterics with two late three-pointers, as they finished the 25-point win to maintain their second-place ranking in the league.

Harvard-Westlake (11-11 overall, 3-6 in Mission League) has now lost five straight games, and has fallen to a tie for 5th place in the league standings with Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. The team will next be in action on Feb. 4, when they take on Flintridge St. Francis (9-13 overall, 0-8 in league) at home at 7 P.M.  The Wolverines defeated St. Francis 53-42 in the teams’ first matchup on Jan. 14, and are currently ranked 122nd in California by MaxPreps, compared to 225th for the Golden Knights.