Harvard-Westlake Wins First CIFSS Open Title

Nik Khamenia of Harvard-Westlake looks to slow down Roosevelt’s Brayden Burries during Friday’s CIF Southern Section Open Division championship at Riverside’s Cal Baptist University. Photo: Santurnino Photography.

State No. 1 Harvard-Westlake of Studio City defeats No. 2 Roosevelt of Eastvale to capture the program’s first CIF Southern Section Open Division crown. The Wolverines hold on at the end after missed free throws and a tough foul call against Roosevelt after the final missed Wolverines’ foul shot. Harvard-Westlake will now enter the SoCal open regional as the top seed when pairings are released on Sunday afternoon. Will these two teams rematch on March 5 in the regional final?

Note: We hope you enjoy this free post on CalHiSports.com. All of our award-winning rankings writeups, analysis and predictions of what’s coming next for the rest of the 2023-24 season will be content for our Gold Club VIPs only. Some of the upcoming all-state team selectios also will be for Gold Club members only. To become a member of our Gold Club so you can check out all of our boys basketball content, including state record updates and player rankings in each class, CLICK HERE.

Something had to give because regardless of the outcome of the CIF Southern Section’s latest No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state Open Division title game, there was going to be a first time champion. Harvard-Westlake was looking to fulfill a season-long goal of capturing the section’s most prestigious crown after it came up short of advancing out of pool play in 2023 before it went on the capture the CIF Open Division state title. Roosevelt, a public school in the Norco-Corona Unified School District, was looking to follow the lead of district rival Centennial and become the fourth straight winner from the Inland Empire for the section’s big prize.

Both teams entered the title game with a perfect 3-0 pool play record, but it was Harvard-Westlake that remained unbeaten in the playoffs heading into this upcoming week’s SoCal open regional tournament with a 54-47 victory. The winner of both the NorCal and SoCal open regional will then meet for the CIF open state title on March 9 at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. The second big goal for the Wolverines would be to repeat as open champions.

In a game that Harvard-Westlake (30-3) controlled after Roosevelt (30-3) scored the first two points, the Wolverines led 17-11 after one period and by as much as 10 points (25-15) in the second period. Despite not shooting the ball well from the outside and seeing more than a handful of outside shots rim in and out, the Mustangs hung around until the end. Amazingly, Harvard-Westlake (the top seed and the state’s No. 1 team after avenging regular season Mission League losses to Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks and Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth in the league tournament and during section pool play, respectively) did not score a field goal in the final 4:05 of the game. The game had no real flow offensively, but Colorado State-bound Darnez Slater gave Roosevelt and the pro-Mustang crowd at Cal Baptist University in Riverside some life when he hit two 3-pointers down the stretch, with 2:43 to go and 48 seconds left, after it shot 2-of-9 from behind the arch through the first three periods.

Trent Perry is on the bottom of this team photo of Harvard-Westlake after its victory in the CIFSS Open Division title game. Photo: Ronnie Flores.

Slater’s second bomb made the score 50-47 with Harvard-Westlake holding on to the lead, when Roosevelt (the state’s No. 2 team on a 12-game winning streak) encountered a tough situation. It didn’t want to let the clock run out, but it also didn’t want to foul as the next one put Harvard-Westlake in the bonus, which means two automatic free throws under the new rules established this season by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). With 15.6 seconds to go in the game and 10 seconds on the shot clock, Roosevelt fouled Trent Perry, the Wolverines’ McDonald’s All-American. He missed the first and in the old system last year, Roosevelt could have secured the rebound and raced up-court to look for a potential game-tying 3-point shot. With the new foul rules in place, Perry got a second shot and he missed it. On the rebound scrum, however, Roosevelt’s Brayden Burries was called for a hold on the Wolverines’ Robert Hinton on his offensive rebound attempt, and Roosevelt coach Steve Singleton and its faithful couldn’t believe the referee’s call in that situation.

Hinton went to the line and made both free throws to seal the win and his team’s first CIFSS open title.

The game came to a grinding halt in the final minutes, but there was no denying Harvard-Westlake put forth another incredible defensive effort. Junior Nik Khamenia got the assignment on Burries and the All-American candidate as a junior finished 4-of-15 from the field with 14 points. Roosevelt, which shot 30 percent from the field for the game, was led in the scoring department by Slater with 18 points for a team that made 4-of-13 on 3-pointers and was out-rebounded, 35-26.

“Number one, they (Roosevelt) are an excellent team,” said Harvard-Westlake coach Dave Rebibo. “Our defense had to be good and it was. Coming in we knew we had to play a good game to win. We didn’t shoot well, we didn’t hit our free throws (21-of-31) which is uncharacteristic of us, but the defensive intensity…I couldn’t be prouder of this group.”

Khamenia and Hinton each scored 15 points for Harvard-Westake, whose first loss of the season came against Columbus of Miami, the current No. 2 ranked team in the FAB 50 National Rankings, in a one possession game. Khamenia also had seven rebounds and two assists, while Perry finished with 13 points (despite missing six free throws) for Harvard-Westlake, which came into this contest ranked No. 10 in the FAB 50.

In its only other appearance in a CIFSS Open title game, Harvard-Westlake fell to Centennial of Corona, 68-48, in 2022 when the game was played at Centennial because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Centennial was in the middle of a run of three consecutive CIFSS open titles between 2021 and 2023. The last time this section title game game wasn’t a state No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup came in 2019 when it was played at Cal Baptist. Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth defeated Bishop Montgomery of Torrance when Salesian of Richmond was riding along as No. 1 in the state. Salesian is once again NorCal’s top ranked club and will enter the NorCal open regional as the No. 1 seed while looking for its first open regional victory. The Pride, ranked No. 6 in the state, took down No. 14 De La Salle of Concord on Friday night, 52-43, in the CIF North Coast Section Open Division title game on Friday evening at Contra Costa College.

For Roosevelt, it gave a game effort, but after losing in such circumstances against a team that won its three pool play games by a winning margin of 22.7 points (10, 34 and 24), it has to feel confident it can do what Harvard-Westlake did last season: lose before the regional playoffs only to bounce back and win the CIF state open title. Harvard-Westlake and Roosevelt will be the top two seeds when the regional pairings are announced on Sunday afternoon. The only thing left is to decide is how many CIFSS entrants will be placed in the SoCal open regional, and if any state-ranked team can prevent these two clubs from once again meeting on March 5 in the SoCal open final.

Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of CalHiSports.com. He can
be reached at
Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter:

Enjoy this article?

Find out how you can get access to more exclusive content, one-of-a-kind California high school sports content!

Learn More

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


    Latest News

    Insider Blog