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Harvard-Westlake beats Crespi, 56-47

The Wolverines move into first place in the Mission League with the victory.

January 11, 2011|Eric Sondheimer
  • Harvard-Westlake's Josh Hearlihy drives past Crespi's Kenny Stenhouse during Monday night's Mission League basketball game.
Harvard-Westlake's Josh Hearlihy drives past Crespi's Kenny… (Katie Falkenberg / For The…)

Back in early December, when key players were injured and starting lineups kept changing, North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake Coach Greg Hilliard insisted that by late January, his team would be very good.

The Wolverines (14-2, 3-0) are right on schedule after a 56-47 victory over Encino Crespi on Monday night that propelled them into first place in the Mission League.

Josh Hearlihy, an improving 6-foot-7 junior who has caught the attention of college recruiters, scored 16 points, Colorado-bound Damiene Cain had 11 points and senior guard Jordan Butler added 11 points to lead a Harvard-Westlake team that opened a 19-point lead in the third quarter. TheWolverines, ranked No. 11 in the Southland by The Times, seemed to catch No. 8 Crespi (14-4, 2-1) off guard with a matchup-zone defense that left the Celts tentative and confused.

"It's a unique zone, and it takes awhile to figure out what we're doing," Hilliard said.

Matt Mounier, averaging 19.5 points for the Celts, was the biggest victim. He made his opening shot of the game, a three-pointer, and didn't score again until late in the fourth quarter, finishing with five points.

The Celts' frustrations were demonstrated by Coach Russell White, who put his hands on top of his shaved head and called two timeouts trying to get his team to respond, but Crespi trailed at halftime, 31-16, and was down, 40-21, with five minutes left in the third quarter.

"We were expecting it, and we didn't do a good job attacking it," White said of the zone.

It took inspiring play from Justin Rubia to finally ignite the Celts. He scored 11 points in the third quarter and finished with 17 points. His basket with 55 seconds left pulled Crespi to within 52-47.

Crespi, which won last year's Southern Section Division 4A championship, has shown it's a much better team this season, with victories over Los Angeles Loyola and Orange Lutheran, which knocked off Santa Ana Mater Dei last week. But the Celts waited too long to exploit weaknesses at the guard position for Harvard-Westlake. A trapping defense began to produce turnovers in the fourth quarter, something the Celts might use in a league rematch or a playoff rematch, since the Celts and Harvard-Westlake are in Division 3A this season.

But Hilliard will welcome tough games ahead because he believes his team is improving and getting healthy.

"We're making progress," he said. "We're playing hard and we're doing it as a team. It's a good win against a good team."

The Wolverines face West Hills Chaminade on Wednesday, then get to host Loyola on Friday night in a game that should bring out Harvard-Westlake students who stayed away in droves Monday night whether to study for finals or watch Oregon-Auburn in the BCS title game on TV.

"It's going to be a war," Hilliard said.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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