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Nationally ranked rivals Columbus (Florida), Harvard-Westlake (California) to clash for Les Schwab Invitational title

“We’re 1-1 against them, so we really want to break that tie. We’re all ready and we’re motivated."
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HILLSBORO — The 2023 Les Schwab Invitational final could be one for the ages. 

Christopher Columbus of Miami, Florida, began Friday’s semifinal action with a 92-73 drubbing of Oregon Class 6A title-hopeful Central Catholic. In the nightcap, reigning California Open Division champion Harvard-Westlake dismantled Arizona’s Perry, 78-56, to set up a championship game featuring two of the more dominant teams in LSI history.

Columbus, ranked ninth in the SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25, won its first three games at Liberty High School by an average of 37 points. The 15th-ranked Wolverines weren’t far off at 31.7.

After facing minimal resistance on their respective sides of the bracket, the two powerhouses will meet at 8:45 p.m. Saturday and likely provide some fireworks to close the 27th edition of the LSI

“We’re super excited,” said four-star Harvard-bound guard Robert Hinton, who noted that Saturday’s final will be a rubber match between the super teams. The previous two showdowns came at the Section 7 Team Camp in Arizona with Harvard-Westlake winning the 2022 matchup and the Explorers prevailing in June, 75-60.

“We’re 1-1 against them, so we really want to break that tie. We’re all ready and we’re motivated."

Nikolas Khamenia, a four-star junior wing, said the Wolverines fell into an early hole and dealt with foul trouble in the June loss. 

“We thought we could’ve gotten them, but we started the game off really slow,” Khamenia said. “We came back in the third quarter, but some turnovers let them get back up. Tomorrow, we can’t have those mistakes.”

Harvard-Westlake (15-0) was close to flawless against Perry (10-4), blowing the game open with a big first quarter.

The Wolverines missed a few good looks early, but Trent Perry jumpstarted the offense with a 3-pointer and Khamenia followed with a transition slam for a 10-2 lead. Khamenia and Christian Horry buried back-to-back triples to make it 21-6 late in the opening quarter. 

Khamenia, Isaiah Carroll and Trent Perry each hit a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions as the lead swelled to 36-19 midway through the second. The Wolverines went 10 for 14 from long range in the opening half en route to a 44-27 advantage at the break.

“We’ve been shooting well for a long time now,” Khamenia said. “We do that every day in practice: shoot, shoot, shoot. (Head coach David Rebibo) gives everyone the same confidence. He never gets mad at someone for missing a shot. When guys are shooting, they feel confident in themselves, so it goes in.”

Trent Perry, a four-star USC signee, hit another triple at the beginning of the second half, and Harvard-Westlake kept its foot on the gas pedal for the remainder of the game.

Earlier this month, the Wolverines faced Perry in Arizona and fell behind early before rallying for a 61-53 win. Harvard-Westlake wasn’t happy with that performance.

“A big motivation for us tonight was even though we won that game, it was too close,” Hinton said. “We needed to win this one big to show the other teams who we really are.” 

Added Khamenia: “We wanted to come out today and do the same thing we did back then but with a better result this time. Yeah, we won, but we felt like there were so many times in that game where we went up and let them come back. In this game, we tried to put it on them right away.”

Trent Perry and Khamenia paced the Wolverines with 21 points apiece. Hinton had 18 points. The trio combined to make nine of Harvard-Westlake’s 13 3-pointers.

Koa Peat, a five-star junior forward, carried the Pumas with 21 points, nine rebounds and two assists. 

Harvard-Westlake mostly succeeded in containing the 6-foot-9 Peat, but the task will be even harder in the championship game against Columbus big man Cameron Boozer

“The key for us is staying connected on the offensive and defensive ends,” Hinton said. “Because we know if we stay together, we can beat anyone.”

In the first semifinal, Columbus stormed out to a 29-10 lead after one quarter and coasted to a 19-point victory.

Jase Richardson and Cameron Boozer scored 15 points apiece to lead the Explorers (9-4). Boozer, a top-ranked junior prospect, added 10 rebounds and two assists.

Future Princeton Tiger Malik Abdullahi also had a double-double for Columbus, putting up 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Oregon commit Isaac Carr, a junior guard, paced Central Catholic (6-2) with 22 points and four rebounds. Brothers Duce Paschal (17 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals) and Zamir Pascal (15 points, eight rebounds, three assists) also shined in defeat.

The Rams played until the final whistle, netting 33 points in the fourth quarter. 

Photo by Naji Saker 

Video by Caden Hoppes 

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