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The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Girls’ basketball wins Division 2 State championship

Darlene Bible
The girls’ basketball team poses center court with their medals and trophy after defeating Colfax High School 60-45 in the CIF Division 2 State Championship. The win is their first state championship since 2010, and marks Girls Program Head Melissa Hearlihy’s second state championship and 839th career win.

After 14 years in the making, Girls Basketball Program Head Melissa Hearlihy was able to lead her girls back to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State Championship for the first time since the program’s Division 4 State Championship in 2010. The team defeated Colfax High School from Northern California 60-45 on Saturday to win their second state championship in school history.

Freshman Angelina Habis ’27 led all scorers for both teams with 19 points. Following closely was Deana Thompson ’25, who notched 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. Forward Valentina Guerrero ’26, in just her second game back in five weeks due to a broken nose, tallied a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

To start the game, the team was unable to find a rhythm going scoreless, shooting 0-4 in the first two minutes of play while Colfax scored four. Four minutes into the quarter, Habis would score four points for the team while Colfax continued a steady scoring pace adding five, putting the score at 9-4.

But after Hearlihy called a timeout to settle her team, problems would arise for the Falcons. For the remainder of the quarter, they would shoot 0-6 from the field, and would turn over the ball six times feeding into a transition offense for guard Jamie Yue ’24, who scored four fast-break points off of two steals. Thompson would also contribute, adding five points to a 12-0 run over Colfax to end the first frame up 16-9.

Guerrero and Colfax would exchange layups to start the second quarter. But the Falcons immediately began to gain momentum when the Wolverines committed three turnovers and struggled with rebounding, allowing Colfax to go on a 11-2 scoring run to tie the score at 20-20. Guerrero and Habis would each trade points with the other team, but Colfax would convert two points on free throws and two on another layup. The Wolverines would go into the half down 28-24.

Hearlihy and her squad came out firing after halftime off of mid-range contributions from Guerrero and Habis and a layup from Thompson. Hearlihy made adjustments on the defensive end, bringing in 5’11 freshman forward Oyinkansola Iriafen ’27 to guard the paint with Guerrero, and shifting the defense into a 2-3 zone. Yue would trade threes with Colfax, but Habis would answer with another to bring the score to 36-32. Both teams continued scoring from the field to end the quarter with the Wolverines up 42-40.

Thompson would take over in the last quarter of play, leading the team with 10 fourth quarter points. She scored six straight in the first five minutes, giving the Wolverines an eight point lead over the Falcons. Colfax would convert a three-point play, but Guerrero would follow Thompson with four straight points of her own, the score 52-43 with less than two minutes remaining. As smiles and hugs broke out on the sideline, and as Habis went to the line to drain her free throws with seconds remaining, it was clear that the Wolverines would win the title.

The team’s road to the Division 2 Championship wasn’t easy. As the lower seed in the CIF Southern Section playoffs, they won three straight games by close margins, the last a hard-fought comeback of 50-47 against Redondo Union High School that merely qualified them for the State tournament before falling in the Division 1 semifinals to Santiago High School. In the CIF Division 2 regional tournament, the Wolverines cruised through their first two wins before upsetting the one-seed Oak Park High School on the road, and defeating local rival Notre Dame High School to win a regional championship and advancing to state for the first time since 2010.

Winning wasn’t easy ast first for the young team, which played only two seniors — guard Kamari McNeely ’24 and Yue — and a single junior, Thompson. They finished their regular season before CIF 11-17, and finished third in the Mission League. In preseason, they lost starter Bella Spencer ’25 to an ACL injury, and Guerrero broke her nose mid-season and was out for five weeks. Habis had a concussion, and chronic knee issues for Yue caused her to miss a host of games.

Despite the injuries, Yue said that she was glad to finish the season with success.

“[The win] means everything,” Yue said. “This really wasn’t where we thought we’d ever be from the beginning of the season. But this team is so awesome. We had such a fun time, and I’m so glad I was able to finish out my last game with them.”

Yue celebrates with the team as Hearlihy raises the championship trophy.

Hearlihy said that the unity of the team elevated them at the end of the season.

“What I can tell you is that these kids are resilient,” Hearlihy said. “I said the same thing in 2010. What I love is watching them the last three days become a unit, watching them become a family, watching them care about each other. I got a knock on my door last night at 10 o’clock, and they had a little beauty-fest. They showed up with all their makeup to show me, and those are the things that I love about coaching.”

But even in the face of adversity, there were highlights throughout. Hearlihy secured her 839th win with a championship, and now has the second-most wins for any boys’ or girls’ basketball coach in CIF history. Thompson reached 1000 career points as a junior. And they will now hang up two banners in Taper Gym, bringing home regional and state titles back to the school.

Hearlihy said her second championship will be a long-lasting memory for her and the team.

“It was a heck of a journey and we’ll talk about this for a long time,” Hearlihy said.

The team poses for a picture in the press conference room following the win.
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