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Boys’ Basketball: Leaving a Legacy

As senior guard Trent Perry ’24 made his way down the handshake line after winning the championship game, he struggled to maintain his composure. But when he came across Boys’ Basketball Program Head David Rebibo, the emotions flowed uncontrollably — joy from winning a championship, but sadness from playing his last high school basketball game. Rebibo told Perry that they had made history, as they held a tearful embrace together. In a postgame interview, Perry said he was glad to win a final championship with his longtime teammates.

“For some of us it was four years in the making, and for some of us it was six years in the making when we started off in middle school,” Perry said. “It’s such a blessing to have these moments with these guys. We work so hard, we went through a lot of adversity and we’re very grateful for this.”

In the historic season, Perry and the boys’ basketball team have won their sixth consecutive Mission League title, their first California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section (CIF-SS) Open Division title in school history and back-to-back CIF State Open Division championships. The Wolverines ended their season with a record of 33-3, and were ranked fifth in the nation, according to MaxPreps.

The team entered their first difficult stretch of the season against national opponents, competing at the Les Schwab Invitational in Hillsboro, Oregon, and the Hoophall East Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts. At the Les Schwab Invitational, the Wolverines picked up their first loss of the season to the number-one ranked Columbus Explorers from Florida, led by top prospects Cameron Boozer and Cayden Boozer. In the Hoophall East Classic, the team outlasted McEachern High School from Georgia in overtime, led by five-star forward Ace Bailey. Rebibo said being able to play against national competition ultimately helped the team gain experience.

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“I thought our schedule really helped us,” Rebibo said. “We put together a schedule that a lot of people questioned, like traveling to Boston in the middle of league play when you have Notre Dame and Sierra Canyon [the same week]. But we did that with one goal in mind, and that goal was to prepare us for [winning a state championship].”

Immediately after their win on the East Coast, the team flew back to face Mission League powerhouses Notre Dame and Sierra Canyon. Led by a 29-point performance from Notre Dame’s Mercy Miller, the Knights handed the Wolverines their first loss in league play at home. The team fell once more on the road to Sierra Canyon, blowing a double-digit lead to the Blazers and losing two consecutive games for the first time since the 2021 season. Rebibo said the team was able to fall back on its identity after the rough week.

“For us, the number one thing was that we had to recenter and refocus,” Rebibo said. “We needed to get back to who we are, and get back to our roots and basics. We needed to humble ourselves because losing is an opportunity to learn. We watched the film, and we saw things that were uncharacteristic of us, about who we are as a program, culturally and character-wise, so we had to get back on track and get back to [being] who we were.”

Senior guards Trent Perry ’24 and Robert Hinton ’24 celebrate during the CIF-SS Open Division final against Roosevelt. (Connor Tang)

But after these two losses, the Wolverines did not lose a game for the rest of the season. In a few weeks, the team defeated both Notre Dame and Sierra Canyon, all the while winning the Mission League Championship against Crespi and the CIF-SS Open Division Championship against Roosevelt.

When state playoffs arrived, the team was given its toughest battles all year. In a matchup against Carlsbad and a rematch against Roosevelt, the Wolverines found themselves in large deficits late, faced with the task of saving their season. But Perry would be the spark for the team in such adversity, contributing 40 and 28-point performances in each game, respectively, to lead the team to a second consecutive Open Division Regional title and a date with Salesian College Preparatory in Sacramento for the state championship.

In the championship game, the Wolverines traded blows back and forth with Salesian, but ultimately prevailed in the fourth quarter behind late-game contributions from Perry once more. The team would secure back-to-back state championships for the first time since 1997 and become the sixth team in CIF history to win section, regional and state titles in the same year. Rebibo said the team’s resolve in the face of adversity pushed them to victory.

“All I can say is this team was such a fun team to coach,” Rebibo said. “They made history. They won everything you could possibly win, as it pertains to end-of-the-season accolades. When it mattered most they showed up, even when they didn’t bring their best to start. They showed unbelievable character to fight, and pursue and chase the things that they wanted most.”

In addition to the team’s big three of Perry, junior forward Nik Khamenia ’25 and senior guard Robert Hinton ’24, the supporting cast was crucial to the team’s success, especially with the loss of previous starters Brady Dunlap ’23 and Jacob Huggins ’23. Two players who stepped into larger roles were senior guard Christian Horry ’24 as a starting three-point shooter, and junior forward Isaiah Carroll ’25 as a defensive sixth-man off the bench for the Wolverines. Rebibo said Horry’s intangible qualities are what defines him as a player.

“[Horry] is an unbelievable person, and he’s so bought into winning,” Rebibo said. “He cares so much. He’s so passionate about the name on the front, and it means a lot to him more than the name on the back. He represents culturally what we want every player in our program to be like, and that’s to be all in, invested and buying into doing whatever they can do to help the team win, and that’s exactly who he is. He continued to get better year in and year out.”

Carroll, who played on the junior varsity team for two years before joining Rebibo’s squad, said he was not afraid of big moments despite playing his first year of varsity basketball.

“This being the first year that I was getting playing time on varsity, there was a lot that was new to me,” Carroll said. “Being able to take [clutch] shots are nice, but there’s also the consequences of missing those shots, and the most important part is I learned from them, and I wasn’t scared to take them. Even though the result wasn’t what I hoped for, I still had the confidence to take those shots. I’m going to continue to have that confidence during the rest of my time here and I think that’s what’s important.”

Isaiah Carroll’s father is Middle School Dean Jon Carroll, who serves as the public address announcer during boys’ and girls’ basketball games. Isaiah Carroll said being able to play with his father announcing his games has been a memorable experience for both him and his father.

“I’d always joke with my dad about how one day he’ll get to announce me in the starting lineup or talk on the PA while I’m in the game scoring, and this year being the first year that that got to be a reality was just something special,” Isaiah Carroll said. “In the Campbell Hall game, when I had a pretty solid game, there were so many people coming up to me telling me how proud my dad looked while I was in the game, trying to keep his cool, because I was going off. Things like that are things that not everyone has, and I’m really glad that I get to share that with my dad.”

Perry, who was recently named as the California High School Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year by MaxPreps, said this year’s state championship was difficult because they were the team to beat rather than the underdog.

“I think it was harder because we were the hunted instead of the hunters,” Perry said. “Everybody’s trying to take the title away from us. Everyone gave their best effort every time they played us, no matter who they were. And no matter what, we had to stay locked in.”

Khamenia, who played his third year on the varsity squad, said the team’s bond this year was unlike any other he has experienced.

“Being on the team for three years now, this year’s team was probably the closest any team has ever been,” Khamenia said. “As far as everything we did off the court, we did on the court. Everything we talked about off the court, we talked about on the court. From going to the girls’ games to going to get food together, it all helped us so much as far as chemistry and playing basketball, but just the relationships that we built off the court, I mean, they’re second to none.”

Sophomores Amir Jones ’26 and Dom Bentho ’26 celebrate in a CIF-SS group play matchup against Sierra Canyon. (Connor Tang)

Despite losing three starting seniors next year, Rebibo said he is confident in the development of his remaining players and the team’s ability to compete for championships next year.

“I’m very excited about next year’s team,” Rebibo said. “A lot of talent returning. We return Dom Bentho ’26 and [Khamenia], who are going to be very good. We expect [Bentho] to make a huge jump. Amir Jones ’26 is going to make a huge jump, and [Isaiah Carroll] is going to make a huge jump. And then you’ve got Barron Linnekens ’26, Bryce Williams ’26 and Cole Holden ’27, who we are very high on, as well as Pierce Thompson ’27. So the cupboard is nowhere near bare. We are very excited and we think that group can compete with anybody in the Southern Section and state next year, and we’re looking forward to it.”

This story was originally published on The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle on March 20, 2024.