Boys BB Saturday CIF State Finals

Major Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year candidate Trent Perry of Harvard-Westlake looks for an opening going up against the super-tough defense of Richmond Salesian during CIF Open Division state final. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Harvard-Westlake completes its mission of winning CIF Southern Section Open Division & CIF Open Division state titles with a victory over Salesian of Richmond. It wasn’t easy, though, as the Pride had the lead in the fourth quarter with less than two minutes left. Also earning CIF state titles on Saturday were Monterey (D4) and Oakland Tech (D2). Chatsworth’s Alijah Arenas also makes history in defeat with 44 points.

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It was a marquee matchup of terrific defensive squads who cared more about their team success than individual accolades during Saturday night’s CIF Open Division state championship at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center.

Both teams had goals since the first fall practice to win a CIF open title and for Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, another goal was to win open crowns at the state and section level. Salesian reached one of its goal of winning the NorCal open regional, but it was the Wolverines who reached all three of their main goals, capturing the CIF Open Division State title, 50-45, in front of a lively crowd.

With its clutch performance at the end, Harvard-Westlake not only repeated as CIF open champs, it accomplished its three goals of winning the CIF Southern Section Open Division championship and its Mission League title, in a league that had three teams reach the No. 1 ranking in the state during the 2023-24 season.

Robert Hinton’s first half scoring binge helped the Wolverines get out to a 21-11 lead vs Salesian in CIF Open Division state title game. Photo: Willie Eashman.

“It’s unbelievable to me (to win all three) and it’s truly special and I am proud of these guys, I don’t think they realize how much right now,” said Harvard-Westlake coach Dave Rebibo. “To win back-to-back open state championships without a single transfer, if that is not special I don’t know what is. They never deviated from the mission.”

Salesian also had a special group that actually took the lead on two separate occasions in the second half and had a chance to pull off what would have been a lukewarm upset between NorCal’s and SoCal’s best team.

Harvard-Westlake (33-3) had an answer every time and made the championship plays at the end to seal the state’s most prestigious crown. Salesian never wavered even despite falling behind 21-11 after the first period. In the third quarter, Salesian finally got over the hump and took a 32-31 lead on a lay-up by talented sophomore Elias Obenyah with 4:56 remaining in the third period. From there, the chess-match turned into a war, with every possession and every move meaningful to the outcome of the game. The Pride outscored the Wolverines, 16-10, in the second period and 9-7 in the third quarter to trail by only two points (38-35) heading into the final stanza, but Salesian (31-2) tied the game right away on an inside bucket by sophomore Alvin Loving IV to begin the fourth.

Salesian again took the lead with 1:31 to go on a lay-up by Obenyah knowing that his defender, USC-bound Trent Perry, had four fouls. But Harvard-Westlake took control in the championship minute and a half behind the clutch plays of Perry and two crushing turnovers in a row by Salesian (31-2).

After Obenyah’s big bucket, Perry answered right back with a front-of-the-rim drive to make the score 46-45 with 1:17 remaining in the contest. On the next possession, Harvard-Westlake junior Nik Khamenia played terrific defense on Obenyah, forcing a loose ball that Perry quickly fell on while Rebibo got a quick timeout. After the huddle, Perry hit a contested 15-foot elbow jumper to give his team a 48-45 lead. After the last turnover with 10.6 seconds remaining on Salesian’s set play, Perry let out a smile after being fouled with the game still in the balance.

His smile let off a sense of relief, and his teammates sensed it, that last year’s State Junior of the Year would make the free throws and the team’s third and final major goal would be met.

Perry made both charity shots, his 16th and 17th points of the game, to account for the final margin. Perry added four rebounds and two blocks. Leading the Wolverines in scoring was Robert Hinton, who finished with a game-high 19 points and keyed the first quarter surge for the defending CIF open champs. He had nine first quarter points and 15 in the first half.

Salesian standout senior guard Aaron Hunkin-Claytor was able to crack a smile in the post-game press conference despite team’s loss to Harvard-Westlake. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Obenyah led Salesian with 14 points. The team’s other double-digit scorer was senior forward De’Undrae Perteete with 10 points. In showing how balanced they were all season losing only to the CIF open champ and CIF D1 champ (St. John Bosco of Bellflower) in overtime, The Pride never had one player score 20 points in a game all season long.

“I play with a lot of good scorers, so I get open lanes when I get the ball,” Obenyah said.

“We lost to a really good team; we have to give them credit for making their free throws and getting stops,” said Salesian head coach Bill Mellis, who is now 2-2 in CIF state title games. “For us to have a couple of turnovers at the end was uncharacteristic of us. We’ve have so much fun coaching this group and this is a great group of kids.”

Under Mellis, Salesian won state titles in 2009 and 2012 and fell in 2011, all in Division IV.

Under Rebibo, Harvard-Westlake has now won three CIF state crowns, including one in D4 in 2016. Under previous coach Greg Hilliard, the Wolverines won back-to-back D3 crowns in 1996 and 1997, and the latter was the state’s final No. 1 team in a terrific season for boys basketball.

This Harvard-Westlake team, which entered the week No. 1 in the state and beat No. 2 Roosevelt of Eastvale in the SoCal open final on Tuesday, will finish as the Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year. It joins Mater Dei of Santa Ana (2013-14) and Mission League rival Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth (2018-19) as the third program in the CIF open era to win back-to-back CIF state open crowns.

It was quite an accomplishment for a team that came into the season with a bulls-eye on its chest, met its goals and played up to expectations against a strong group of teams that gave the Wolverines their best shot on many occasions. Nobody could get a quick sense of where to put this Harvard-Westlake team on the list of all-time great clubs to win a CIF title in the highest division or where to rank this Salesian team among its four others to appear in a state title game. What was clearly evident to all, however, was that the game they witnessed on Saturday evening was a great one to close the CIF season.

“They gave us everything we could handle and more,” Rebibo said. “The team with the most resolve at the end was going to win, and I’m glad it was us.”

ArDarius Grayson of Oakland Tech goes up for a scoop lay-up against the defense of Centennial’s Jaxton Santiago. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Boys D2

Oakland Tech 79, Centennial (Bakersfield) 55

One day after the Oakland High girls won the D5 state title, the Bulldogs kept the Oakland Athletic League and CIF Oakland Section in championship form.

Tech won its first-ever CIF state title one season after losing to its rivals from Oakland High in the CIF NorCal D3 championship. That result also reversed three earlier losses to the Wildcats. This year, the Bulldogs got past Oakland in the NorCal D2 final after two earlier wins and that made Saturday’s impressive showing more special.

“Playing in the OAL, every team is a big rival,” said Tech head coach Karega Hart. “It’s not about a certain team, it’s about the entire city. Going against them (Oakland) has kind been like Duke and North Carolina the last few times. It’s been electric.”

In Oakland Tech’s first two CIF state title appearances, the Bulldogs fell to Westchester of Los Angeles in the D1 final in back-to-back seasons (2002, 2003). They were led by future NBA player Leon Powe at the time. Tech’s head coach of those teams, Hodari McGavock, was at Saturday’s game and gave Hart a hug afterward.

An 11-0 run for Tech (30-5) in the first quarter reversed a 7-2 lead for Centennial and helped the Bulldogs to a 16-13 lead. The lead changed in the second quarter on a three-pointer by Rippen Gill for a 17-16 lead for Centennial that was quickly reversed on a three-pointer by Tech’s Saddiq Alarbesh. From there, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 33-27 at the halftime break.

Centennial, looking to become the fourth team from Bakersfield to win a CIF state title, could not recover from a similar 9-0 run to start the third quarter. The Bulldogs kept on the pressure, kept on scoring and had put the game away at 59-41 to start the fourth quarter.

“We came together at such a late point of the season,” said Golden Hawks’ head coach Hernan Santiago, whose team concluded a 28-8 season. “But it’s crazy how much fun these last few days have been.”

It wasn’t fun how Centennial shot the ball in the NBA arena. The Golden Hawks, who upset higher ranked Heritage Christian of Northridge in the regional finals, were only 3-of-20 on three-pointers and were 20-of-66 overall (30.3 percent). Oakland Tech made 4-of-10 on three-pointers and 29-of-62 overall (46.8 percent). The Bulldogs also had a 49-37 edge in rebounding.

ArDarius Grayson has been Tech’s spotlight player this season and the junior point guard was lit once again on Saturday. He tallied 20 points and he had 12 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. On this night, Grayson also had tons of help from teammates. Junior guard Caleb Rollins also scored 20 points and was 2-of-3 on three-pointers. Senior forward Ahmed Gulaid also was effective going into the paint. He had 16 points.

Gill, a 6-foot-6 senior who has been one of the top players in the CIF Central Section all season, showed it again with 22 points. Senior forward Donquavius Bolton was the Golden Hawks’ only other double-digit scorer with 12 points. Senior forward Jaxton Santiago added a team-high 11 rebounds and a team-high five assists.

“We started out the year with the simple goal of winning the last game,” Hart said at the beginning of his team’s post-game press conference. “We had gotten tired of having to pick them up at the end of the year after a tough loss. They came in dialed in and got the job done.”

Boys D4

Monterey 74, Chatsworth 66

Fans were entertained in this division as two public schools that have never enjoyed success at the state level traded buckets all game long. Chatsworth came in with the big gun in 6-foot-6 sophomore Alijah Arenas, but Monterey got just enough stops and stopped all of the Chancellors’ min-runs to capture the program’s first CIF state title.

It was an incredible run for Monterey, which entered the NorCal regional as a No. 14 seed after losing in the Central Coast Section D3 semifinals to Santa Cruz, the NorCal D3 champ which actually beat the Dores twice. They were facing a team that also lost in its section semifinals (L.A. City Section open) and came in as the No. 1 seed. The D4 SoCal region had six L.A. City Section teams, so there was a solid chance one of them would navigate to Sacramento.

Ryan Roth was the leading scorer this season for CIF D4 state champion Monterey. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Some of the Dores’ players believed their season was over following the crushing section semifinal loss and felt the four regional road games brought the group closer together. And while Chatsworth’s offense centered on one talented player, Monterey showed it had a plethora of weapons, including a standout football player and a pair of brothers who moved in from Gulfport, Miss. The Grid-Hooper was junior guard Kavon Collins, a muscular athlete who keyed the first quarter for the Dores, who had a 9-0 run to take a 16-10 lead after eight minutes. Chatsworth (20-15) eventually adjusted, but whenever the Chancellors made a move, Monterey answered with a big shot by a variety of contributors.

Monterey (25-6) led 21-20 in the second quarter with Chatsworth threatening, but the Dores answered with a timely bucket by 6-foot-1 senior Ryan Roth, then Collins hit a 3-pointer, his 16th, 17th and 18th points of the first half, to give his team some cushion. The only time Chatsworth led in the game came when it scored the first two points of the contest.

Collins, an Idaho commit for football, netted 18 points in the first half. Chatsworth’s big gun, of course, was Arenas, the son of former NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas, who was an all-state selection at Grant of Van Nuys in 1999 and was sitting courtside at the Golden 1 Center. Arenas, who came into the contest averaging 32.6 ppg, had 16 points at halftime as the Chancellors trailed 34-29 at intermission.

Arenas had a big third quarter, as he got comfortable with his mid-range game, scoring 15 points to put him at 31 points, but Monterey still led 52-48. Monterey held its lead even though Arenas finished the contest with 44 points on 17-of-32 shooting and 8-of-12 from the line. He added eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Arenas’ scoring output was a record for the division and the second most all-time by any individual player in CIF state history.

“I wish I could have got the win and left here doing better for my teammates,” said Arenas, whose scoring mark is now No. 2 all-time behind 1989 Mr. Basketball Tracy Murray of Glendora, who scored 64 in a D2 loss as a senior.

Roth’s brother, 6-foot-3 junior Joshua Roth, had 13 points in the second half for Monterey and the Mississippi transplants made a big impact on this game and on the team all season long with shot-making, toughness and team-oriented play. Chatsworth had one last chance to make a run, but it was dashed on a big conventional 3-point play by Suheib Ibrahim to give Monterey a 61-53 lead with 3:50 to go after a missed 3-pointer.

“This team has just embraced us and we’re like a family,” said Ryan Roth, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. His brother had 19 points and also had eight rebounds. Collins finished with a team-high 22 points.

Chatsworth junior big man Taj Unuakhalu had a big statistical outing, finishing with eight points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. There is no official individual blocked shot record totals, but we don’t recall the last time any one individual had double digits for blocked shots.

“It was obviously tough for us,” said Chatsworth interim head coach Dax Groom. “We started off the game slow and No. 0 (Collins) blitzed us. The first quarter was the difference. We let them get too comfortable.”

“I am proud of my guys; they worked hard all season,” said Monterey coach Greg Daniels, a 1996 graduate of Monterey who has coached at the school for 23 years. “We push them, critique them, criticize them, but they put their team goals over the individual ones. That’s why we’re here today.”

Monterey came to Sacramento on Saturday morning at 6 am as a team and took its fifth and last ride back home to the Central Coast as state champions.

Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of He can
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