There was no denying the historic moment taking place in the tiny gym at Verdugo Hills High. Not since 1959, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, had the Dons' basketball team won a league championship.
So some 300 people jammed into the gym Friday night and didn't leave disappointed, with the Dons defeating Van Nuys, 65-50, to finish with an 11-1 East Valley League record and win the league title outright.
"It's the biggest win of my high school life, my career, everything," said senior guard Aragad Abramian, who finished with 19 points.
It was a moment of satisfaction and accomplishment for 33-year-old Coach Jared Gibson, who in only his third year had helped end a championship drought.
"The kids make it special," he said.
Afterward, Gibson climbed a ladder and put up a 2010 championship label on a banner hanging from the gym wall, joining the 1958 and 1959 labels as the only basketball titles in school history.
Verdugo Hills, 20-7 overall, was leading, only 18-15, after the first quarter because Gibson insisted that on senior night, the seniors get to play. So 6-foot-7 junior center Chris Dees sat on the bench for the entire first quarter.
But once he came in, the outcome was certain. He blocked shots, made four baskets and sparked the Dons to a 40-25 halftime lead, leaving little doubt that even though he's an All-City volleyball player, he also might have a future in basketball. He finished with 10 points, 16 rebounds and 10 blocks.
Also impressive for Verdugo Hills is Abramian, a terrific three-point shooter who Gibson calls "the heart and soul" of the team. He had 15 points in the first half.
The Dons will find out Saturday what seeding they will get for the City Section Division III playoffs, but regardless of what happens, Gibson and the players from this season's team have changed the basketball culture on campus.
"It's the first time we've gotten this far in 51 years," Dees said.
The players dumped water and ice on Gibson at the game's conclusion, leaving the gym floor slippery and wet. But no one seemed to care. The celebration was on, ending with a pizza so big in the coaches' office that not even Shaquille O'Neal could have eaten it all. That was left for the players to eagerly devour.