Chatsworth boys basketball stuns Birmingham with comeback led by Alijah Arenas

CHATSWORTH — It took him a half to get warmed up.

But once Chatsworth boys basketball player Alijah Arenas started heating up in the second half, there was no putting out that fire.

The sophomore sensation scored 23 of his 31 points in the second half, including the game-winning layup with 1.3 seconds left, to lead Chatsworth to a come-from-behind, 70-68 win over Birmingham Wednesday night in a West Valley League game.

WOW what a finish in Chatsworth!!

Arenas with the layup with 1.3 seconds left to give Chatsworth the 70-68 win

— Dan Lovi (@LoviSports) January 25, 2024

“We had to stay focused, we had to lock in, we had to play together,” Arenas said. “We had to pick up the energy because we were kind of down, but we couldn’t let it get to us. We’re a team that always comes back, so no matter how far we fall we always get back up.”

Birmingham got out to an early lead with combo guard Alex Dupre taking the reins for the Patriots. The senior commanded the offense early, scoring from midrange consistently and finding his teammates for open looks.

He showcased his range by hitting three 3-pointers and was clutch from the free-throw line, going 4-for-4 down the stretch to keep his team in the game.

He had a tip-in dunk in the second quarter that elicited a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience in the stands and put Birmingham up by double digits.

Dupre, who finished with 29 points, had a chance to put Birmingham ahead with less than 10 seconds left in the game, but his running floater hit the back of the rim and the ball bounced out to Salomon Torres, who threw it ahead to Arenas for the game-winning layup.

“He does everything for us. He had a tough break,” Birmingham head coach Nicholas Halic said of Dupre. “He took that shot and he’s supposed to take that shot. I thought he could have drove it a little deeper, maybe put some pressure on the refs, but he’s learning. It was a good game by them, they got us.”

The win keeps Chatsworth in the mix to win the West Valley League title. The Chancellors are 4-2 in league, behind Birmingham (5-1 league) and Cleveland (5-1 league).

With the Chancellors trailing in the third quarter, Arenas started to attack the basket for better looks in the paint. When he did have space behind the arc he took advantage to the tune of four 3-pointers in the third quarter.

When the double and sometimes triple-team approached, he found teammate Tekeio Phillips in the corner for open looks behind the arc.

Phillips made five 3-pointers and finished with 21 points.

“We got to stay together and stay connected,” Arenas said. “We have to hold it together like we did in the second half.”

“We left the corner game, we never adjusted,” Halic said. “Up 15 (points) it’s tough to lose like that. We couldn’t get any stops in the third quarter.”

Chatsworth big man Taj Unuakhalu logged a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Deshawn Banks finished second in scoring for the Patriots with 12 points and Ryan Sostman pulled down eight rebounds to go along with seven points.

The Chancellors have four league games remaining, including the season finale against Cleveland.

The loss puts pressure on Birmingham going into its last four league games, but the Patriots still control their destiny in the West Valley League.

Birmingham plays El Camino Real and Taft in its next two games before a highly-anticipated rematch against Cleveland on Jan. 31. The Patriots won the first matchup 61-44.

“It puts pressure on you that now every game is a playoff game,” Halic said. “You’re in the driver’s seat because you did what you were supposed to do the first time, but every single game now is a playoff game.”

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