Watching a 16-year-old high school basketball player blossom in a five-month high school season and go from a player with potential to a player who makes threes and plays suffocating defense in an NBA arena. star player is almost invisible explains how valuable 6-foot-8 Nikolas Khamenia has been for Harvard-Westlake during March Madness.
Saturday night ended on the biggest stage at the Golden 1 Center after Harvard-Westlake (33-2) was validated as the No. 1 team in California at Santa Maria St. After a 76-65 win over St. Joseph in the state Open Division championship. the game Despite Harvard-Westlake having five starters bound for college, the player who elevated the Wolverines to the toughest division state champion was Khamenia.
He three-timed Southern Section Open Division defending Corona Centennial with a 20-point performance last week. This time, he was assigned to guard San Jose’s talented 6-8 Tounde Yessoufou, who averaged 28.2 points. He limited them to six points in the first half and 14 points in 32 minutes. Khamenija also scored 16 points, making three 3-pointers.
Harvard-Westlake’s Trent Perry drives past San Jose Luis Marin in the first quarter of the Wolverines’ championship victory Saturday at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
(Jose Luis Villegas / For the Times)
Harvard-Westlake coach David Rebibo celebrates with his team at Santa Maria St. After a 76-65 win over St. Joseph on Saturday to claim the Open Division state boys basketball title.
(Jose Luis Villegas / For the Times)
“Like anybody, maturing takes its course, and he’s just maturing,” coach David Rebibo said. “To see it bloom at this time of year when the pressure is highest is incredible.”
Harvard-Westlake led 35-31 at halftime. The Knights were able to hang on because 6-6 point guard Luis Marin continued to use his size to maneuver inside and had 15 points, making seven of his eight shots. As usual, the Wolverines were getting contributions from five starters and Christian Horry came off the bench to hit a baseline three that his father, Robert, was feeling good about sitting courtside.
In the third quarter, the Wolverines made a big adjustment. Brady Dunlap, 6-8, assigned to cover Marin, suddenly stopped shortstop. He made one shot the entire game. Harvard-Westlake went on a 7-0 run to take a 48-35 lead.
The players who were supposed to pass went for Harvard-Westlake. Point guard Trent Perry, the Mission League Player of the Year, had 16 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. 10 attendance was an open level record. Dunlap scored 16 points. Jacob Huggins had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The legacy of this Harvard-Westlake team could be in contention for the best in school history. The 1996 and 1997 teams successively won the State III. The Collins twins who won division championships, Jason and Jarron, have always been used as a benchmark for basketball greatness. The 1997 team went 36-1, was ranked No. 1 in California and lost only to national power Mt. Zion Christian Academy of Durham, NC. 33-2 win over Henderson (Nev.) Liberty and Bellflower St. Against John Bosco. were the only defeats this season. And each time, the Wolverines responded with a vengeance, learning from their mistakes.
“I feel like it humbled us,” Perry said of St. Having lost in the play-off pool for John Bosco. “We came together and we did it.”
Said Rebibo, “Sometimes it’s good to reset.”
The future is also bright.
Three of their five starters are underclassmen: Perry, Robert Hinton and Khamenia. Add in Horry, a key sixth man, and developing freshman big man Dominique Bentho, and the Wolverines have a chance to field another strong lineup for 2023-24.