Ben Shtolzberg raised his arms in triumph with 6.5 seconds left. Three frustrating seasons of losing to Studio City Harvard-Westlake was about to end. Two seasons of dealing with a pandemic was momentarily forgotten. Five weeks of overcoming a shoulder injury was conquered.
“I got cleared two days ago,” Shtolzberg said. “I’ve played real basketball for two days.”
It was a night to remember for Shtolzberg and his Sherman Oaks Notre Dame teammates Friday night. They stunned No. 3-ranked Harvard-Westlake 71-61 on the Wolverines’ home court, with Shtolzberg scoring his team’s first 12 points of the fourth quarter and finishing with 28 points.
Notre Dame (15-3, 2-0) is suddenly in the driver’s seat to win the Mission League. Harvard-Westlake (14-2, 0-1) is left trying to figure out what went wrong after opening a 10-point lead in the third quarter. Dusty Stromer contributed 20 points and Dante Ogbu had 16 points for the Knights. Notre Dame coach Matt Sargeant had been 0-7 against the Wolverines.
Shtolzberg, a Creighton commit, took over the game in the fourth quarter. He either scored on a three-pointer or was fouled and converted free throws (he made 12 of 13 free throws overall). Trent Perry scored 17 points and Brady Dunlap had 15 points.
For the two teams to play at such a high level in a week of uncertainty gives hope for the future. Dozens of games were postponed or canceled this week.
Conversations have begun around the state on how to proceed if the surge in coronavirus cases forces more games to be canceled or postponed. Santa Barbara Unified paused all extracurricular activities on Thursday through next week and will be reassessing weekly. Montebello Unified has stopped athletic activities until Jan. 17. The Southern Section postponed its Tradition Competitive Cheer Championships for one month after too many teams had to withdraw because of positive cases.
The executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation, Ron Nocetti, said the 10 section commissioners will meet in a video conference next week to discuss ideas moving forward. “Our office has said since the beginning we would remain flexible with state and regional events,” Nocetti said.
Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod said, “We are having discussions and continue to monitor. Our goal is how do we effectively go forward in a healthy and safe way and have full opportunities.”
Harvard-Westlake players are fully vaccinated and were tested four times this week. The Wolverines lost two opponents this week and are down four games after having their own 10-day pause for health and safety protocols. “When we started playing last year, there weren’t 37,000 positive cases in Los Angeles County,” coach David Rebibo said.
“We’re continuing to play while everything is going crazy and schedules are being changed on a daily basis. It’s really stressful.”
The uncertainty is bringing back bad memories from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 when some students lost entire seasons.
“For them, it’s a very scary time and they’re a little freaked out and being able to do this is really important,” Rebibo said. “Our players are incredibly resilient. We are thrilled to be able to play and compete.”
Loyola 75, Bishop Alemany 38: Jalen Cox scored 20 points to lead the Cubs in their Mission League opener.
Dominguez 74, Gahr 49: Franklyn Chambers scored 21 points and Isaac Sowell had 21 rebounds for Dominguez.
Paramount 39, Downey 38: Cameron Norman finished with 15 points and Spencer Ezewiro had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Paramount.
JSerra 63, St. John Bosco 52: The Lions pulled off the Trinity League upset. Aidan Fowler scored 21 points.
Mater Dei 66, Orange Lutheran 58: Kaden Minter had 13 points and Zack Davidson added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Monarchs.
Foothill 80, Esperanza 54: The Knights improved to 16-1. Jake Horton and Carlo Billings each had 15 points.
Venice 48, Gardena 42: The Gondoliers won the San Fernando Valley tournament. Sophomore Tyler Hunt was tourney MVP after scoring 20 points.
Riverside Poly 61, Valley View 47: Freshman Brayden Burries scored 26 points for 17-1 Poly.
Calabasas 65, Oaks Christian 32: Gavin Murphy had 15 points for the Coyotes.
Birmingham 80, Canyon Country Canyon 56: Larry Olayinka scored 16 points and Brooklyn Caldwell had 15 points for the Patriots.
Sierra Canyon 101, Highland 35: Juju Watkins scored 26 points and MacKenly Randolph had 21 points.
Moorpark 1, Camarillo 0: Justin Conyers scored the only goal to help Moorpark improve to 11-0.
Servite 7, Santa Margarita 0: The Friars (9-2-1, 2-0) cruised in the Trinity League match.
Oak Park 3, Simi Valley 0: Emma Rale had two assists.
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