Derek Glasser nearly transferred to North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake before his sophomore year at Lakewood Artesia.
He decided to remain only after Artesia Coach Scott Pera assured Glasser that he no longer was interested in moving to the college level.
Glasser, now a senior point guard for the Pioneers, showed the Wolverines what they missed Saturday afternoon in the Southern California Regional Division III final at the Sports Arena, scoring a career-high 25 points while playing the second half on a hyperextended right knee. His play led top-seeded Artesia to a 73-55 victory over third-seeded Harvard-Westlake and a berth in its first state final since 1995.
"He really showed his toughness and how he wants to keep trying to win," Pera said. "He's leaving quite a legacy for himself."
Glasser injured his knee during an in-bounds play under Harvard-Westlake's basket with 50 seconds remaining in the first half.
He hobbled through most of the third quarter but still scored eight points to help the Pioneers (32-1) extend their lead from three to seven points. Harvard-Westlake (27-6) trailed by three with 1:36 left in the third quarter, but Glasser made a three-pointer to ignite an 11-0 run. The Wolverines could never cut the deficit to single digits.
"At the end, I guess we didn't have any gas left in the tank," Harvard-Westlake Coach Greg Hilliard said. "A very good team just separated itself."
Malik Story scored 11 of his 17 points in the first half and James Harden scored 10 of his 16 during that span. Greg Howell, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, came off the bench and collected a team-high nine rebounds, one more than Harvard-Westlake's 6-10 senior Alex Stepheson, the North Carolina-bound center who came in averaging 20.5 points and 18 rebounds.
"They boxed out real well," Stepheson said. "They did everything together."
Stepheson scored 18 points to lead the Wolverines and junior forward Kieran Ramsey contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds.