What a wild scene it was Friday night in the gym at West Hills Chaminade. "The Cage," as Chaminade students call it, was loud, energetic and relentless in support of its home team in a Southern Section Division 4AA second-round playoff game.
That made what Westlake Village Oaks Christian pulled off even more impressive. With Jason Ghilarducci and Michael Roletti contributing 18 points apiece, the Lions (22-5) defeated Chaminade, 63-57, leaving the Eagles stunned.
"Of course, it was fun," Ghilarducci said. "As competitor, it's what I live for, going into your opponents' home court. It gets crazy at Chaminade. As a senior, this is the moment you live for."
Oaks Christian picked up its defensive pressure in the second quarter, igniting a 16-0 run that turned a 22-11 deficit into a 27-22 lead. It wasn't until a Jack Williams three-point play with 25 seconds left that the Eagles were able to stop the streak.
Oaks Christian went on another run at the end of the third quarter, scoring the final 11 points to take a 45-41 lead. The Lions focused on containing the 6-foot-8 Williams and high-scoring guard Jaron Martin, and the strategy worked.
Williams scored 23 points and had 14 rebounds, but he had one basket in the fourth quarter. Martin was limited to 18 points and five free throws in the fourth quarter.
It was a triumph for Oaks Christian Coach Andre Chevalier, who enjoyed success at Reseda Cleveland and helped develop Nick Young in high school. He has molded a team of mostly young players with a couple of key seniors into a quarterfinalist team that will host the winner of La Verne Lutheran-Big Bear on Tuesday.
"We have to find combinations that work together," Chevalier said, "and we were able to do that."
Senior Chass Bryan made five consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter while Chaminade fans were chanting, "Pressure, pressure, pressure."
"We told them you have to enjoy these environments as a high school player," Chevalier said. "It's rare we get into this environment in our league. They'll be talking about this for the rest of their lives."