Studio City Harvard-Westlake brought a little Hollywood to Sacramento on Saturday, showing off its dunk sensation, freshman Cassius Stanley, while also relying on the grit of New York native Wolfgang Novogratz en route to a 66-49 victory over Salinas Palma in the state Division IV basketball final at Sleep Train Arena.
Novogratz played like someone who had no intention of leaving Sacramento without a championship ring. He was in attack mode from the outset and finished with 26 points and eight rebounds. The stage and the moment didn't bother him one bit. It was Harvard-Westlake's first state title since 1997, the last year of Jason and Jarron Collins.
"It's the state championship," he said. "Big-time players make big-time plays. I wanted to win more than them, so I gave everything I had out there."
Stanley, the 6-foot-5 first-year varsity player who has been rolling up YouTube dunks all season, got a lob pass from Novogratz in the third quarter, jumped so high that he hit his neck on the bottom of the backboard but still came down with the ball to complete the dunk and finish a three-point play. It was the moment Harvard-Westlake (27-8) opened a 22-point lead.
"It was amazing," Stanley said. "It was everything everyone dreams of, dunking in an NBA arena."
Said Novogratz: "We've had a few unbelievable alley oops during the season. That one I was shocked because I threw it up hoping they were going to foul him. It was unbelievable. That's all I have to say."
Added Stanley: "I saw it was so high it was either going to end badly or well. I think it ended well."
The Wolverines barely made the state playoffs as an at-large team after losing in the semifinals of the Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs. First-year Coach David Rebibo was able to guide his team to two state playoff victories without Stanley, who was recovering from a concussion. To win those games and then reach peak form on Saturday was a tribute to the players and Rebibo's coaching talent. He left the University of San Francisco to return to high school coaching and ended up with a state title.
Stanley finished with 16 points and Carter Begel added 14 points. Novogratz made 11 of 14 shots and all four free throws.