Harvard-Westlake girls basketball rolls to victory over JSerra in CIF regional playoffs

STUDIO CITY – On a night when the fourth-seeded Harvard-Westlake girls basketball team posted one of its highest scoring games, it was the Wolverines defense that led them to a 70-42 victory over No. 12 seed JSerra on Thursday night in the CIF Southern California Regional Division II playoffs.

“One of the changes for us throughout the course of the year was getting them to understand how important defense is,” said Harvard-Westlake coach Melissa Hearlihy. “They’re trying really hard and that’s going to be the difference. You know, that’s what makes champions and it’s always been our mantra to ‘play hard, play defense.’ “

Harvard-Westlake moves on to the regional semifinals and will play at No. 1 seed Oak Park on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Harvard-Westlake defense found its anchor when senior Jamie Yue returned midseason from a knee injury.

“She’s the head of our snake,” said Hearlihy. “She leads our defense. She leads our offense. She’s unselfish. She just kind of does it all.”

The offense for the Wolverines (16-18) shined in its own right as they posted their second highest point total of the season. Freshman Angelina Habis led the way with a game-high 19 points while junior Deanna Thompson had 15.

“When you’re getting layups and not having to make 3s, things get a lot easier,” said Hearlihy. “But we were making 3s too. We shot the ball early really well.”

Harvard-Westlake’s impressive defense allowed it to jump out to a 20-9 lead after the first quarter. The Wolverines didn’t allow a field goal until there was 2:45 remaining in the first.

Thompson was the leading scorer after one quarter as she poured in eight of her 15 points.

The Wolverines were led be a different scorer all four quarters – including once each by Thompson, sophomore Madison McDonald and Habis.

The Wolverines knocked down five 3-pointers in the second quarter as their lead grew to 41-22 at halftime.

McDonald paced the scoring by connecting on three of the 3-pointers.

Habis added seven points in the second quarter, capping off a half that saw her finish with 12 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

“She gives us scoring and she scores all different ways,” said Hearlihy. “She can shoot 3s, she dishes the ball, she finishes around the rim. She’s going to be a really nice player for us.”

The Wolverines defense continued to impress after halftime, allowing just two field goals again in the third period.

Sabis had seven in the third and Thompson added five as they combined on 12 of Harvard-Westlake’s 14 third quarter points as they extended their lead to 56-29 going into the fourth.

Freshman Oyinkan Iriafen pulled down 15 rebounds while freshman Kira Dhaliwal led the Wolverines with five fourth-quarter points.

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