Alijah Arenas’ 28 edges Chatsworth over Oaks Christian 55-52 to advance to the Faith Baptist Tournament Finals

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With the Notre Dame Knights having already punched their ticket to the Faith Baptist Tournament Finals, the stage was set for the Semifinal matchup between the Chatsworth Chancellors and the Oaks Christian Lions on Thursday, December 21, 2023. Alijah Arenas, son of former NBA All-Star and Grant High School standout Gilbert Arenas, led the Chancellors to the Semifinals averaging 34.1 points per game on the season, shooting 49% from the field. In a tightly contested and physical game, Chatsworth rallied from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to bring the game to a 51-51 standstill with 2:31 left. As his father watched along, Arenas produced his second consecutive 28-point night while his Chancellor teammates made key plays down the stretch to beat the Lions 55-52 to advance to the championship game.

The start of the game began with both teams competing hard on the defensive end resulting in a low scoring first quarter, where Chatsworth gained a slight 14-8 edge at the end of the quarter. Both teams traded baskets to start the second quarter before the Lions increased their defensive activity by pressing in the back court, forcing turnovers in the process. Their defense & rebounding effort helped power Oaks Christian to a 14-2 run to take the lead. Arenas finished with 15 points at halftime, yet the Lions still held on to a 32-26 lead at the break.

Arenas began the second half scoring the first eight points of the quarter for the Chancellors. Not to be outdone by his opponent, Oaks Christian sophomore Nick Giarusso added seven points of his own. Chatsworth began to tighten up their defense with more active hands and tight contesting to force tough shots. The physical inside presence of junior center Taj Unuakhalu and freshman Takeio Phillips helped the Chancellors trim the deficit to 44-42 heading into the final quarter.

Oaks Christian jumped out at a 51-44 lead in the fourth quarter before Arenas cut the deficit with back-to-back baskets, one of which was a three pointer. Junior Salomon Torres tied the game at 51 apiece with 2:31 left. After getting key stops on the defensive end, Chatsworth pulled ahead with a go ahead basket from Phillips, while Unuakhalu showed his hustle on the glass with a putback layup to put them ahead 55-51. Both teams exchanged misses at the free throw line for the remainder of the game.

The last three free throws came on a controversial call in which Giarusso was fouled on a three-point shot with 1.3 seconds left and the Lions still down by four. Chatsworth thought he kicked his leg out, but he missed the second of three free throws after making the first. The last free throw was an intentional miss as the Chancellors survived to win 55-52.

Chatsworth ahead Coach Dax Grooms gave kudos to his team for the way they battled through adversity to come out on top with a win, “This the beauty of this team. We don’t have to play a great game to win. They just need to do what needs to be done.” Grooms’ team will have a tall task on Friday night at 8:00 pm as they take on the Notre Dame Knights for the Faith Baptist championship. 

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