Boys’ basketball aims for 1st perfect Mission League record since ’97

By Jack Davis

The boys’ basketball team is poised for a perfect record in Mission League for the first time since 1997 after defeating Los Angeles Verbum Dei 57-18 in Taper Gymnasium Monday night. If the boys defeat Alemany tonight, which is also Senior Night, it will give the squad a perfect 14-0 Mission League record. The last time the boys’ basketball team finished the season with a perfect Mission League record, Jason Collins ’97 and Jarron Collins ’97 starred for the Wolverines team that went on to win the state championship and were dubbed “The Best Team Ever.”

After a lackluster 2-4 start to the season, the team has won 18 straight games, with 16 of those victories coming by ten points or more. Leading the charge for the Wolverines has been forward Erik Swoope ’10.

Swoope, who committed to play in college at the University of Miami midway through the season, is averaging 21 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.8 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 75 percent from the field and 73 percent from the free throw line.

The season so far has been highlighted by a series sweep of archrival Loyola.

The squad beat Loyola 74-70 Jan. 11 at Taper Gymnasium in the club’s first meeting of the year.

The Wolverines faced a nine-point fourth quarter deficit, but rallied in the final minutes behind another herculean effort from Swoope. Swoope scored 33 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the packed crowd stormed the field once the final buzzer rang. Soon after, anticipation started building for the rematch at Loyola, with heavy trash-talking on Facebook from both sides.

An hour before the game’s opening tip, both student sections were packed, with spirited Harvard-Westlake and Loyola chants popping up recurringly during the JV game. Loyola’s Leavy Gym quickly reached its 1,500 person capacity and some were eventually denied admittance into the game.

On the first possession of the game, Swoope stole the ball at midcourt and threw down a thunderous slam dunk at the other end, igniting the Wolverine crowd and setting the tone for a dominant first quarter by the Wolverines. Harvard-Westlake took a 29-14 lead into the second quarter but Loyola slowly cut into the deficit. Loyola guard Miles Cartwright hit a three with two minutes left in the first half, capping an 8-0 Loyola run that cut Harvard-Westlake’s lead to 39-31, a score that stood going into half. In the third, Loyola inched closer to tying the game, cutting the deficit to as little as one point before heading into the fourth down 49-46.

However, the Wolverines proved too much in the end, using a 10-0 spurt midway through the fourth quarter to take control of the game, ultimately finishing off the Cubs handily, 77-63.

“It was just a great game,” said Swoope, who again led the charge with 37 points and 12 rebounds. “We played as a team and when we are playing like this we are hard to beat.”

Guard Austin Kelly ’10 and forward Damiene Cain ’11 added 16 points a piece for the Wolverines.

“We have a great group of guys who are used to playing with each other and it shows out there on the court,” guard Chris Barnum ’10 said. “It’s a special group and we have a chance to do something special.”

After Wednesday’s game wraps up regular season play, the Wolverines will begin preparation for playoffs. Head Coach Greg Hilliard feels confident in the Wolverines ability to make a run as repeat CIF champions.

“We are in an incredibly tough division this year, but we are playing as well as anyone,” Hilliard said. “I am confident that this bunch can compete for a repeat.”