Hoophall West: Cali Tops Arizona!


On the final day of games at Hoophall West in Scottsdale, Ariz., California's two top ranked teams in the FAB 50 took on Arizona's two best and came away with two key victories. Two other highly California clubs go down to non-AIA clubs on Saturday afternoon.

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Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.) faced Perry (Gilbert, Ariz.) in the nightcap of the three-day Hoophall West and was attempting to keep its unbeaten record intact and give California Interscholastic (CIF) teams their second consecutive win over highly-regarded Arizona clubs. The Wolverines, the defending CIF open division state champs, did just that in upping their record to 7-0 with a 61-53 victory over a team that came into the event ranked No. 29 in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings as the defending Arizona Interscholastic Association open division champs.

Perry, which defeated Sunnyslope (Phoenix, Ariz.) in the first ever AIA open title game last March, got off to a hot start. It took a quick 17-4 lead, then Harvard-Westlake proceeded to go on a 25-10 run to close the first half. The Wolverines eventually took the lead at 29-27 on a conventional 3-point play by Harvard-bound Robert Hinton with 21.9 seconds remaining in the first half. The run eventually got up to 31-10 until Perry star junior forward Koa Peat made two free throws with 6:15 to go and Harvard-Westlake leading 35-29.

Harvard-Westlake led 48-37 after three periods of play. Perry (4-2) cut its deficit down to three points (54-51) with 1:47 to go on a nifty dime from Peat to Jonas Cedarlind, but Nikolas Khamenia sealed the win with a clutch 3-pointer to make it 59-51 with 40 seconds remaining in the game.

USC-bound guard Trent Perry 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Harvard-Westlake, while Hinton finished with 19 points and Khamenia had nine points. All of Khamenia's points came in the fourth period.

Peat finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks for Perry, who plays Sunnyslope on December 8 and St. Mary's (Phoenix, Ariz.) on December 11.

Harvard-Westlake will do battle with state-ranked clubs St. Pius-St. Matthias (Downey, Calif.). and Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.) before it heads to the Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon after Christmas. There the Wolverines could potentially meet Perry once again with FAB 50 No. 7 Columbus (Miami, Fla.) another potential roadblock to a tourney title and an unbeaten record heading into 2024.

In the first of two big time California vs. Arizona matchups, St. John Bosco, currently ranked No. 20 in the FAB 50, upped its record to 3-0 on the young season with a 75-68 workmanlike victory over FAB 50 bubble club Sunnyslope (Phoenix, Ariz.). The Braves relaxed at times but did enough to down a team that earlier recorded a win over Corona (Centennial, Calif.) but lost to fellow Arizona clubs Millennium (Phoenix, Ariz.) on Thursday at the event.

St. John Bosco led 26-11, but eventually lost the lead 43-42 with 4:40 remaining on a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Christian Simmons. Sunnyslope and Bosco went back in forth and the Vikings last lead came at 54-53 right under seven minutes remaining in the game. Loyola-Chicago commit Jack Turner of St. John Bosco quickly answered with a bucket and the Vikings only scored five points until the final 30 seconds of the game when they scored 10 points when the contest was no longer in doubt.

Junior forward Kade Bonam led St. John Bosco with 23 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Fellow junior Elzie Harrington, one of nations's best 2025 guards, added 16 points, five rebounds and eight assists. Top-notch sophomore (2026) guard Brandon McCoy Jr. chipped in with 15 points and six rebounds for a St. John Bosco club that is currently No. 2 in California among CIF schools behind Harvard-Westlake. The two schools won't be meeting during the 2023-24 regular season, but ultimately could in the CIF Southern Section open playoffs in February.

California did lose two games earlier on Sunday, but it wasn't to Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) clubs.

Desert Mountain, which defeated Notre Dame Prep (Scottsdale, Ariz.) on Thursday at Hoophall West, rebounded for a buzzer-beating loss to Pinnacle (Scottsdale, Ariz.) on Friday night to record a 81-74 overtime win over FAB 50 No. 38 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.). With 16.9 seconds to go, Desert Mountain sophomore guard Kaden House converted a driving conventional 3-point play (where he missed the free throw) to give Desert Mountain a 69-67 lead. On the ensuing possession, however, Sierra Canyon senior forward Noah Williams (23 points) tied the game on a driving lay-up with 8.9 seconds remaining.

In overtime, Sierra Canyon racked up the personal fouls far from the goal with its aggressive trapping and was outscored, 12-5. Williams and junior forward Bryce Cofield (18 points) both fouled out in overtime. Justin Pippen, one of the West Region's best unsigned point guards, also had 23 points.

House continued to show why he's one of the best sophomore point guards in the nation with his driving attacks and never-say-die attitude, finishing with 27 points, four rebounds and 14 assists. His brother Kalek, also a sophomore, added 21 points for the Wolves among four double-digit scorers.

California took another setback earlier Saturday afternoon when Centennial (Corona, Calif.), the three-time defending CIF Southern Section, lost its third game of the season to FAB 50 No. 14 Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.), 76-66, in a well played game. The Huskies had a 39-35 halftime lead and led 47-40 and it looked like the visitors from New York were in major trouble when Kentucky-bound Boogie Fland landed awkwardly on a lay-up he made. Amazingly, Stepinac made a 10-0 run with its star guard on the bench and took a 50-49 lead after three periods.

Six-foot-7 2024 forward Braylan Ritvo, a terrific glue player who can knock down the outside shot, kept Stepinac in the game in the first half when Centennial's Isaiah "Slim" Rodgers went bonkers. The talented sophomore point guard had 20 points in the first 16 minutes and finished with 31 points, including 7-of-9 3-pointers.

Ritvo, who will see his recruitment pick up as his senior season progresses, helped Stepinac go to 2-0 on the young season by scoring 30 points, including 8-of-10 3-point shots. Fland re-entered the game with 20 seconds left in the third period and hit some timely shots and free throws in the final stanza to finish with 27 points.

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at ronlocc1977@gmail.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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