Harvard-Westlake basketball’s success made sweeter by boundless support

Harvard-Westlake girls basketball coach Melissa Hearlihy was a little worried when the boys basketball team stormed the court after her team had won a game.

“They tackled us, not realizing we’re not the guys,” Hearlihy recalled, smiling. “So we’re going down in a heap. I’m trying to catch Nik (Khamenia) as he comes falling because I don’t want him to get hurt and (coach David) Rebibo to kill me.”

The Wolverines accomplished a program first when both the boys and girls team won CIF State titles at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on March 1, setting an example of how mutual support can make success even sweeter.

Harvard-Westlake is the 12th team since 1981 to achieve the feat and first since Sierra Canyon’s 2019 teams to do so. The girls team won a Division II title by beating Colfax and the boys won in the Open Division.

The two Wolverines teams had drastically different journeys to the state championships. The boys were going for their second straight Open Division state title behind the dominance it had established that season while winning Mission League and Southern Section titles.

Harvard-Westlake also had a roster of recognizable names like USC commit Trent Perry, Harvard commit Robert Hinton and UCLA-bound Christian Horry.

@haleymsawyer

Harvard-Westlake boys basketball goes back-to-back in the Open Division at the state championships full story: https://www.dailynews.com/2024/03/10/harvard-westlake-boys-basketball-fights-off-salesian-to-capture-second-straight-open-division-state-title/ #golden1center #journalist #reporter #sports #basketball #highschoolbasketball #championships #studiocity #usc #harvard #championship #privateschool

♬ original sound – Haley Sawyer

The girls team had a .500 record coming into the state championships with a roster that at one point was down to its bones. Injuries had temporarily taken out players like Jamie Yue, Valentina Guerrero, Angelina Habis and Madison McDonald.

The Wolverines built consistency as players’ health returned, allowing their defensive style of play to shine.

“The kids were like, man, if we start playing defense, we could beat some really good teams,” Hearlihy said. “I knew that, but it’s just a matter of them starting to believe that. It’s been a heck of a journey. It’s one that we’ll certainly talk about for a long time.”

Harvard-Westlake hosted a doubleheader for the CIF SoCal Regional championships on March 5, and the girls kicked off the night with a win over Notre Dame for the Division II title.

“I think after the girls game, I got told 25 times not to screw it up,” Rebibo said with a laugh.

Rebibo and his team got their championship by beating Roosevelt that same night in the Open Division to keep the pages of the Harvard-Westlake history book turning and send both teams to the state finals.

The boys piled into the student section during the girls basketball game, chanting along with the cheerleaders and getting riled up whenever a big play was made. Meanwhile, the “don’t screw it up” thoughts had playfully returned to Rebibo’s head, the coach recalled.

It was the inverse when the boys took the court — the girls, though tired, cheered on the boys while wearing their championship medals.

@haleymsawyer

Harvard-Westlake girls basketball won a CIF State championship full story: https://www.dailynews.com/2024/03/09/harvard-westlake-girls-basketball-wins-first-cif-state-title-since-2010-after-grueling-journey/ #golden1center #girlpower #womensbasketball #girlsbasketball #championships #highschoolbasketball #basketball #sports #reporter #journalist #girlpower #studiocity

♬ original sound – Haley Sawyer

“When we started making our run, they were in the stands from beginning to end,” Hearlihy said of the boys team. “And that means a lot to us because they’ve obviously had an amazing couple of years and it’s easy not to care.”

The two teams may have gotten to the state finals in their own way, but they’ll be forever united in the history books and their representation of Harvard-Westlake.

“It just means that these are two programs that work really hard, that are committed,” Rebibo said. “They showed character when it mattered most at the end of the year. And that’s a testament to these kids.”

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