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 took down the Chatsworth 74-69 on Friday — an overtime effort that became that much sweeter knowing the Cavaliers (17-9 overall, 8-2 in West Valley League) clinched a share of the West Valley League title.
Birmingham took care of business in a 64-62 victory over Granada Hills Charter and holds the other share 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 Cavaliers 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.”
A slow start to the game with both teams trading blows took a quick turn in the second half. 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 slowly came for Chatsworth (15-13, 7-3) as 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 with his plays all game long. 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 moments of the fourth quarter, Arenas gave the Chancellors life with a clutch 3-point basket to go to overtime.
The explosion of effort would quickly simmer as Arenas was fouled out early in overtime. The kiss of death and unstoppable effort from Souljah Niles, who scored nine of his 21 points in overtime helped seal the deal.
“So many emotions tonight. Not wanting to lose on senior night and my final year,” said Niles. “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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