No. 24 ranked Santa Monica tried and lost by 17.
Citrus College, No. 13 in California, also tried — coming close but losing by three.
East Los Angeles was the latest to take a crack. They went down by 8. They were featured on Netflix as the show “Last Chance U” was filming its second season tracking East LA men’s basketball.
It seems everyone who tries to take down the West L.A. Wildcats. But the No. 1 seed out of Southern California rebuffed the last 19 to try. The Wildcats have won those 19 games by an average of 16.5 points.
Their last loss came 87 days ago, before Christmas. West L.A. hasn’t lost since Drake and Kanye had beef.
Well, now Las Positas gets its turn to try. The Hawks’ historic win over Columbia College on March 5 night, their first trip to the state championship tournament, earns them a showdown with one of the hottest teams in California. The bright side for LPC is the game is at a neutral site — West Hills College in Lemoore, site for the California Community College State Basketball Championship tournament — because West L.A. has won 14 straight at home.
How might the Hawks succeed where others have failed?
“I’ve watched them a little bit throughout the season, but just as a spectator because I knew they were good,” Giacomazzi said. “I just remember saying ‘Wow. They’re really good.’ ”
The Wildcats present many challenges for the Hawks going into Friday’s game.
Wildcat sophomore Roy Clarke is a dynamic guard who can do a little bit of everything. He’s no stranger to getting to the free throw line and is shooting 39.1% from three. The Brooklyn native won the Western State Conference South MVP while leading his team to a 27-3 record. Clarke’s ability to get to the basket will give the Hawks trouble if they let him get into the lane and create plays.
The Wildcats also have 6’5 forward Matthew Mayes who was the Co-Defensive Player of the year in the Western State Conference South. Mayes is a classic three-and-D player that all coaches look for. The Inglewood native is currently averaging 2.6 steals per game and is shooting 52.6% from behind the arc. He currently holds an offer from Southern University.
West L.A. plays a similar style to Las Positas. Both teams like to get after the offensive glass and use their size to get to the basket.
The Wildcats have been able to use their length and athleticism to chase teams off the 3-point line. But, there have been moments throughout the playoffs where teams have had success hitting 3-pointers when the Wildcats gamble for steals.
“They’re really athletic and they can get out on the break pretty easily off of turnovers,” said Citrus College point guard Lance Rodriguez.
Where the Hawks will have trouble could be on the offensive end. West L.A. forces 17.8 turnovers a game, which is good for third in the state. The Wildcats do a good job of playing the passing lanes and are able to get easy fast-break points off of live ball steals.
This is an issue because, recently, the Hawks have had a hard time taking care of the ball — averaging 11 turnovers in their last three games. Sophomore point guard Lee Jones Jr., who averaged under 3.0 turnovers a game during the regular season, has 15 total in those three contests.
The Hawks have a hard time slowing down the game at times which leads to turnovers. If they can minimize the number of turnovers they commit, West L.A. will not get the easy fastbreak points they are accustomed to getting.
One noteworthy difference is behind the arc. West L.A. allowed opponents to shoot 32.5% of its 3-point attempts during the regular season, which ranked 34th in the state.
The Hawks, on the other hand, are one of the best shooting teams in California. Their 41.5% percent shooting from three was fourth-best in the state. Freshman Dathan Satchell has been one of the best 3-point shooters in the state, shooting 44.4% from behind the arc. He has had multiple games this year where he has made more than four 3-pointers.
Both teams rebound at a high rate. Las Positas ranked tenth in the state in total rebounds in the regular season. West L.A. was fifth.
West L.A. uses their size well. They have three players over 6’5 and are not afraid to get after the offensive glass. The Hawks are a good defensive rebounding team, but aside from City College of San Francisco, they have not seen a team with this type of mixture of size and athleticism on the offensive glass often.
But the Wildcats are not invincible. Citrus was almost able to pull off the upset twice this season. Where the Wildcats are most vulnerable is when teams were able to slow the game down and force them to play defense. Citrus did a good job of taking their time and getting good looks at the end of the shot clock.
LPC has the ability to do the same. If the Hawks can get the ball inside and play off of Jordahn Johnson, they will have a good shot of pulling off an upset in the first round.
“All that matters right now is winning the championship, nothing else matters,” said Hawks forward Isaiah Victor.