Brady Dunlap raised his fist in the air. It was the final seconds of Harvard-Westlake’s 59-50 victory over Santa Clarita West Ranch before a sold-out gym in Studio City on Friday night.
The Wolverines won’t be going to the Southern Section Open Division championship game because of a strange stumble earlier in the week, but the lesson learned might help him and his teammates get a bigger prize — a state title.
“There’s no explanation,” the senior said of the Wolverines’ six-point loss on Tuesday to Bellflower St. John Bosco that will allow the Braves to face Corona Centennial for the Open Division title on Feb. 25 at the Honda Center. “It was an embarrassing effort. We know it and we’re going to wear it on our sleeves the rest of the way. Even though we lost, that loss helped us today, because we were ahead late and held it and didn’t lose focus.”
West Ranch (29-2) came in needing only a win over Harvard-Westlake to advance. Except very little went right for the Wildcats. Their star player, Andrew Meadow, was limited to five points and went scoreless in the second half. Jazz Gardner, the tallest player on the floor at 7 feet, was pretty much a nonfactor except when he was fouled and made free throws. He had eight points. The player keeping West Ranch alive was James Evans, who finished with 15 points and made three three-pointers in the third quarter.
Except there was no way Dunlap, who lives in the Santa Clarita Valley and attended Newhall Hart as a freshman, was going to lose to players he grew up with and students in the bleachers who are his friends.
He finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, to support Trent Perry and Jacob Huggins, each of whom contributed 12 points.
“Those are my boys,” Dunlap said. “It’s always fun to go against friends.”
St. John Bosco picked up a 60-47 win over Playa del Rey St. Bernard behind Jack Turner’s 20 points. The Braves, Harvard-Westlake and West Ranch all finished 2-1 in pool play, but St. John Bosco advances to the final because of the tiebreaker, having beaten the higher seed, No. 2 Harvard-Westlake. The Braves came back after losing their playoff opener to West Ranch.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment, especially when you lose the first one,” St. John Bosco coach Matt Dunn said. “It will be an awesome experience for our young group playing in the final.”
Top-seeded Corona Centennial took care of business in defeated Torrance Bishop Montgomery 73-55 to finish 3-0 in its pool. Jared McCain was presented his McDonald’s All-American jersey and had 11 points. Aaron McBride led the way with 20 points.
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame defeated Chatsworth Sierra Canyon for the third time this season 70-53. Caleb Foster finished with 23 points.
All eight Open Division teams have automatic berths for the state playoffs that will be announced on Feb. 26. Centennial, St. John Bosco, Harvard-Westlake and West Ranch are expected to be the Southern California Regional Open Division playoffs.
Harvard-Westlake (30-2) gets a week off to prepare.
“We competed, played real hard, shared the ball, had tons of productivity. We had our normal spirit,” Harvard-Westlake coach David Rebibo said.
Grant 72, Granada Hills 62: The defending City Section Division I champion Lancers earned a spot in the championship game. Dilyn Martin scored 18 points. They will face Venice, a 52-40 winner over LACES.
Birmingham 6, Hamilton 0: Diego Ceja scored the first three goals for the No. 1-seeded Patriots, who advanced to the City Section semifinals. They will play No. 20 seed Taft, a 2-1 upset winner over Fremont.
El Camino Real 3, Cleveland 2: The Royals advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals after opening a 3-0 lead, then holding on. Anthony Villa scored two goals. El Camino Real will play host to Palisades, a 1-0 upset winner over No. 2 Chavez.
Carson 5, Santee 1: The Colts advanced to the City Section Division II semifinals.
Harvard-Westlake 3, Etiwanda 2: Alex Astalos scored on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute to break a 1-1 tie and Kaia Santamarco-King broke a 2-2 tie with another goal in the Division II semifinal.
Hart 3, Westlake 0: The Indians advanced to a Division II final against Harvard-Westlake.
Chaminade 7, Castaic 4: Home runs by Degan Hensley, Greg Rangel and Matt Churchill powered the Eagles.
Long Beach Millikan 6, Dana Hills 1: Cameron Hegamin had two hits and two RBIs for Millikan.
Narbonne 7, Long Beach Wilson 4: Vandross Callahan and Juan Caballero each had two hits and two RBI for Narbonne.
La Mirada 6, Anaheim Canyon 2: Eric Jeon finished with three hits, including a home run, and two RBIs for La Mirada.
North Hollywood 8, San Fernando 5: Cristian Calderon and Ryan Lopez had two hits each for North Hollywood.
Fullerton 6, San Clemente 2: Kyle Kim picked up the win and got two hits to lead Fullerton.
Santa Monica 5, Paramount 0: Sean Bowker and David Montes combined on a two-hitter.