Explaining how Encino Crespi continues to hold down first place in the Mission League basketball race is hard to do.
The Celts have no one taller than 6 feet 3 in their starting lineup. Most predicted Crespi wouldn't finish higher than fifth place.
But on Monday night, there was Crespi holding on for another victory, 69-66, over Studio City Harvard-Westlake to complete a sweep of the Wolverines. Crespi is 16-6 overall, 6-1 in league, and keeps finding ways to win.
"We have people stepping up to make plays, and that's what we need to win," senior point guard London Perrantes said. "If we keep doing this, nobody can beat us."
Key to the Celts' success is the Virginia-bound Perrantes, who had 18 points and 11 assists. Even though he was struggling because of a thigh bruise, Perrantes found ways to contribute. At the end of the second and third quarters, he made pinpoint passes that led to layups. On two other occasions, his passes again led to layups.
"He does everything," Coach Russell White said.
D.J. Ursery scored 22 points, and Aaron Lacombe had 14 points and 12 rebounds to support Perrantes.
Crespi came out flat, falling behind, 21-8. Alex Copeland had 10 points in the first quarter for Harvard-Westlake (13-6, 4-3). Perrantes wasn't going hard, but he seemed to loosen up after that, and Crespi went on a 41-17 run to open an 11-point lead in the second half.
Harvard-Westlake got consecutive three-point baskets in the final two minutes from Eric Alperin and Michael Sheng to cut its deficit to three points. Perrantes missed the front end of a one and one with 11 seconds left, but the Wolverines couldn't convert on a final three-point shot, allowing the Celts to win another tough road game.
Last week, they knocked off Loyola on an overtime buzzer-beater by Carter Gallo.
"We talk all the time, whether we go up big or down big, don't lose faith," White said. "We know we can shoot the three ball to get back in any game, and we did it tonight."
Copeland finished with 14 points and Clinton Hooks had 13 for Harvard-Westlake, which has been without standout forward Derick Newton (shoulder injury).
White made the strategic decision weeks ago to go small and spread the court, allowing Perrantes to control the game and create three-point opportunities for his teammates.
"I'm just going to take what the defense gives me," Perrantes said.
So far, it's working.