Cleveland basketball beats Chatsworth in overtime to claim share of West Valley title

RESEDA — Plenty of sparks were flying in the always-intense West Valley League on Friday night. With the league title at stake, the home crowd helped make sure the title was brought back to Cleveland High School.

The Cavaliers boys basketball team took down Chatsworth 74-69 in overtime on Friday to clinch a share of the league title.

Birmingham took care of business in a 64-62 victory over Granada Hills Charter on Friday to secure the other half of the league title.

“It’s my second year here and things were going super-fast for us, but I knew we had the talent,” said Cleveland head coach Dagem Asfaw. “We were led by our senior Souljah Niles and junior guard Kamari King. Our freshman TJ Wansa is amazing. There’s no limit for a guy like him. It was a total group effort, not only from the players but from our coaches, Jason Johnson and Shant Tarpinian, as well. Can’t do what I do without them.”

Chancellors guard/forward Alijah Arenas finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Chancellors center Taj Unuakhalu also made his presence known with a game-high 13 rebounds.

Unfortunately, the beginning of the end came for Chatsworth (15-13, 7-3) after Unuakhalu fouled out at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

“We fought hard,” said Chancellors interim head coach Sam Harris. “With Alijah, we’re going to get a lot of attention. Other guys stepped up and made big plays which was huge for us. We had a couple of lapses but we fought hard and I’m extremely proud of these guys with how they played.”

Anytime Arenas made plays, Kamari King would answer right back for Cleveland (17-9 overall, 8-2 in West Valley League). Whether it was dropping a game-high 30 points or leading his team with six assists, King came to play.

“It came easy finding the open spaces playing with these guys,” said King. “The goal now is to win the CIF. We know what we are capable of so we just got to go out and execute.”

Even with the scoring barrage from King, the Chancellors would not go away. In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Arenas gave the Chancellors life with a clutch 3-point basket that sent the game to overtime.

Pandemonium in Cleveland!!

Chatsworth’s Alijah Arenas hits the clutch three to send the game into overtime

All tied at 62

— Ryan Menzie (@MenzieReporter) February 3, 2024

The explosion of energy for the Chancellors seemed to disappear as Arenas fouled out early in overtime.

The unstoppable effort from Niles, who scored nine of his 21 points in overtime, helped seal the deal for Cleveland.

“So many emotions tonight,” said Niles. “Not wanting to lose on senior night and my final year. Came down to the wire and I had to stop Alijah. When he hit that shot to go into overtime, I knew it was my time to step up. The goal now is to win the CIF title. I’m trying to go back-to-back.”

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