Ryan Conner delivers two key baskets in City Open Division semifinal win over Chatsworth

Ryan Conner of Los Angeles CES is going to be hard pressed to duplicate what he accomplished on Saturday in the City Section Open Division semifinals against Chatsworth.

His team looked headed to defeat when trailing by three points with 18.6 seconds left. Then craziness happened. Nasir Jones missed two free throws that could have clinched victory for Chatsworth.

LACES came down and tied the score with 3.8 seconds left on an NBA-length three by Conner. Chatsworth threw the ball out of bounds without anyone touching it, giving LACES the ball under its basket. Conner got the inbound pass and made the baseline three for a 52-49 victory that sends the No. 8-seeded team into the Open Division final next Saturday at Pasadena City College.

“This will go down in the history books for me and LACES,” the 6-foot-8 senior said after a teammate hopped on his back during the bedlam afterward. “Even going to college, I think I’ll never forget this moment.”

Donovan Cornelius scored 16 points to lead LACES (19-10), which will play either Birmingham or King/Drew for the Open Division title. Ian Hunter made four threes and had 14 points.

Alijah Arenas led Chatsworth (16-14) with 19 points, but he had none in the fourth quarter. Tekeio Phillips made two threes in the fourth quarter to rally the Chancellors.

Southern Section finalists

It was in early November when The Times’ preseason basketball rankings came out with St. John Bosco ranked No. 1 and Harvard-Westlake No. 2. Three months later, after ups and downs, twists and turns, the two teams met Friday night in Studio City to decide a spot in the Southern Section Open Division championship game.

It was elite player vs. elite player, top coach vs. top coach, All-American vs. future All-American. Except Harvard-Westlake (29-3) has been playing at a different level and showed it in a devastating performance during a 64-40 victory. St. John Bosco missed its first eight shots, fell behind 15-2 after one quarter, 29-9 at halftime and never caught up. The Wolverines will play Eastvale Roosevelt in the championship game on Friday at California Baptist.

Several weeks ago Harvard-Westlake coach David Rebibo said, “Not all of our players are firing at the same time yet and that’s OK. It will happen and when it does, we think we’re going to be pretty dangerous.”

It’s pretty clear the Wolverines are beginning to peak. They held Sierra Canyon to a season-low 38 points Tuesday and were even better on defense Friday. They’ve become more dangerous because young players off the bench have started to contribute. Junior Isaiah Carroll made two three-pointers in the first half. Sophomore Amir Jones made a three.

Trent Perry, who received his McDonald’s All-American jersey before the game, continued to rise up when needed. He was smiling while guarding St. John Bosco’s outstanding sophomore Brandon McCoy, who had 14 points.

Perry and Nikolas Khamenia each finished with 14 points. Khamenia, a 6-foot-8 junior, will be particularly important in the final weeks of the season. With his size, Harvard-Westlake needs him to contribute with points inside and rebounding, and he knows it.

As for Harvard-Westlake’s defense holding Sierra Canyon to 38 points and St. John Bosco to 40 points this week, Khamenia said, “The coaches emphasized defense. We’ve been super locked in.”

Added Rebibo: “It’s who we are. The stakes are incredibly high, the focus even higher, and guys have bought in.”

Neither Harvard-Westlake nor Roosevelt has won an Open Division section title.

“They’re really good and we’re going to have our hands full,” Rebibo said.

In Division 1, Windward and Sherman Oaks Oaks Notre Dame, two teams that were disappointed they didn’t get selected for the Open Division, will play next Saturday at the Toyota Center in Ontario for the title.

Windward received 20 points from Nasir Luna to defeat Damien 67-60. Top-seeded Notre Dame defeated Redondo Union 67-60 behind Mercy Miller’s 23 points.

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