Alijah Arenas leads Chatsworth past Cleveland in boys' Division IV regional final

The Chatsworth High boys' basketball team had plenty of motivation heading into Tuesday night’s Southern California Regional Division IV championship game. Not only was a trip to the state finals at stake, but the Chancellors were playing West Valley League rival Cleveland, which defeated them twice during the regular season.

The third time proved a charm, however, as host Chatsworth overcame a sluggish start to take control in the fourth quarter to post a decisive 62-47 victory. After finishing in third place in the league standings and losing in the semifinals of the City Section Open Division playoffs, the Chancellors reeled off four straight wins and are now headed to the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento to take on Monterey (24-6) Saturday at noon.

Sophomore guard Alijah Arenas, son of former Van Nuys Grant standout and three-time NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas, led the way with 21 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists, but he had plenty of help from his friends.

“The secret is knowing my teammates,” said Arenas, who scored 53 points three nights earlier against Washington Prep. “I can’t get a win by myself. We win or lose as a team and it’s been an incredible journey. It’s about learning the game and I can do it anywhere I play.”

Pounding the boards for top-seeded Chatsworth (20-14) was Taj Unuakhalu, who contributed 17 points and 16 rebounds and made 12 of 15 free throws. TJ Phillips had 10 points and Salomon Torres and CJ Gore each added seven for the Chancellors, who finished 9-21 last season.

“That’s my brother,” Unuakhalu said of Arenas. “If he misses a shot I’m on the glass to get it back to him. The difference this time around was our intensity. We locked down more on the three-point line and made sure to limit them to one shot.”

Arenas had an inauspicious start, getting called for a charging foul 66 seconds into the game, but he made three of his team’s first four field goals to keep Chatsworth in it. Kamari King hit four three-pointers in the first quarter for the second-seeded Cavaliers (20-11) — the last from 35 feet that gave his team a 20-10 lead after the first quarter. He ended up with 19 and Cayden Kelly added 12 for Cleveland, which was seeded No. 1 in the City Open Division playoffs but was upset by eventual finalist LACES in the first round.

Arenas made a reverse layup to give Chatsworth a 31-30 lead at halftime and the Chancellors took a four-point lead into the final eight minutes before shifting to a higher gear. They built the lead to as many as 19.

“We took this game personally,” Arenas said. “We were mad after the City playoffs, but we got back in the lab and figured things out. The pressure’s not off yet. We’re not happy just getting to state, we want to win it.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.