LONG BEACH, CA - With a CIF Southern Section Open Division title up for grabs, defending state champion Windward seized the opportunity against Harvard-Westlake by a final of 53-45.
Trailing by 13 to start the fourth quarter, Harvard-Westlake fought their way back into the game due to big performances from freshman Kiki Iriafen and senior Jayda Ruffus-Milner. Windward held onto a seven-point advantage with just over one minute left, after a Harvard-Westlake basket from Jayla Ruffus-Milner. Star junior Charisma Osborne drove to the basket and dished to McKayla Williams, who scored inside to put Windward ahead 51-42.
Senior point guard Ashlee Wong fired right back for Harvard-Westlake, however, nailing a three-pointer one play later. Osborne nailed two free-throws in the bonus to close the game out, and bring home a championship to Windward. Harvard-Westlake outscored Windward 15-10 in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late for the Wolverines.
Iriafen posted a near double-double (15 points and nine rebounds) to lead Harvard-Westlake, while Jayla Ruffus-Milner added 14 and eight boards. The other Ruffus-Milner, Jayda, finished with seven points on just 2-11 shooting. Wong scored nine points in 32 minutes, tied for the most minutes on the time, on three-of-six shooting.
Windward broke out to a fast start, extending an early 12-9 lead into a 10-point advantage by the end of the first quarter. After Harvard-Westlake won the second quarter 11-10, Windward stepped on the gas pedal throughout the third. A basket from junior Kaiyah Corona sparked an offensive tear for Windward, who led 43-30 after three.
Osborne dominated the Harvard-Westlake defense from start to finish, dropping 25 points on 19 shots with 13 rebounds. “We were extremely focused and came into this game very prepared,” she said. “Our defense was good and we’ve been playing with great team chemistry.”
Williams was an efficient five-of-eight for 12 points, snatched one steal and swatted one shot. Corona scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds. Head coach Vanessa Nygaard could not have been more proud of her team, saying, “Charisma and McKayla played great tonight, my seniors were outstanding, they just stepped in and did so many great things.”
Windward beat three of the best teams in the state (Bishop Montgomery, Mater Dei and Harvard-Westlake) on the road to earning a Southern Section championship.
“If you would’ve told me we were going to do that, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Nygaard said. “We still have more work to do and we’re excited.”
With the state tournament next up for Windward, the Wildcats will look to become back-to-back champions.