Copeland ’15 sets steals record, basketball coasts to first round playoff win

Cole Jacobson

With a full week of rest after their tight loss to chief rival Loyola, the varsity boys’ basketball team came out with a vengeance, using a historically explosive first quarter to eliminate Fillmore (9-12 overall, 8-4 in Frontier League) in a 79-31 CIF-SS Division 4AA playoff win Wednesday night, Feb. 18.

Alex Copeland ’15, who entered the playoffs as the leading scorer in Division 4AA, continued his offensive dominance against the Flashes, scoring a game-leading 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting with three assists to pass the 25-point plateau for the fourth time in the team’s last six games. However, Copeland’s active hands on defense were even more impressive in the playoff opener; the guard led a stifling team defensive effort with a staggering 11 of the team’s 29 steals, setting an all-time Harvard-Westlake record for the most steals by a varsity male player in one game.

In addition to Copeland’s heroics, fellow guard Carter Begel ’17 was solid on both sides of the ball, putting up 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting while also securing four rebounds and a career-high with six steals of his own. Center Noah Gains had a dominant all-around performance with 15 rebounds, eight points on 2-for-4 shooting, five steals, four blocks, and three assists, and Ali Iken ’17 added 10 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in a balanced team win.

The Wolverines opened the game on a 9-0 run, and ended up with a 31-6 lead after only eight minutes of play; no Harvard-Westlake team has won a quarter by more points since December 2010 (in a 101-23 win over Sun Valley). The squad laid off the gas later in Wednesday’s game, playing nobody for more than 20 minutes in order to save the starters’ legs for the later rounds, but still secured its largest margin of victory in a game this season.

Harvard-Westlake (13-13 overall, 4-8 in Mission League) is one of five Mission League teams to advance to the CIF-SS Division 4AA Round of 16. The Wolverines, seeded sixth in the playoff bracket, will next get a home matchup on Friday night against ninth-seeded Rancho Mirage (20-8 overall, 10-2 in De Anza League), which is coming off of an 81-56 first round win over Banning. The Rattlers are making their first basketball playoff appearance in school history, and are ranked 447th in California according to MaxPreps, compared to 133rd for the Wolverines.