“Life around the school has been crazy lately,” Hamilton said. “It’s contagious. Complete pandemonium. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like if we win.” One thing is certain: no one on campus is just happy with being in the finals. Students, teachers and administrators are expected to be out in force to support the Griffins in their quest to win the first title in any sport in the school’s 72-year history. “Everyone has jumped on the bandwagon,” principal Joe Sciuto said. “We’re a small school, a community within a community, and it’s been great to see everyone rally around this group of athletes. What a buzz they’ve created. “We have two buses heading down to Colony High and I’ve spoke to several families with kids in first grade, second grade, some in sixth grade, families without kids on the basketball team, and they still plan on making the trip.” “Oh yeah, Richie and Hussein are stars around here,” boys’ basketball coach Mike Hamilton said. He would know best, considering Polan and Habibi have been instrumental in guiding the Griffins (24-6) into the Southern Section Div.IV-A final at 8:15 p.m. today against top-seeded Twentynine Palms (27-2) at Colony High in Ontario. Big crowds have become the norm during the playoffs. Harvard-Westlake of Studio City hosted the Griffins’ 71-52 semifinal victory over St. Anthony of Long Beach and more than 1,000 fans showed up, nearly filling the Wolverines’ gym to capacity. “That was an amazing experience, an amazing crowd, an amazing moment, like nothing we’ve ever see around here before,” Sciuto said. “I’ll never forget Hussein Habibi running over to all the lower school kids after the game and giving them high fives.” It’s not as if Buckley is an overnight success. They’ve developed quite a loyal following over the years, having won 10 of the past 12 Liberty League titles. But failing to advance past the Southern Section quarterfinals has prevented the Griffins from emerging as a legitimate area boys’ basketball program. Until now. “The atmosphere around the school has been great,” Habibi said. “We’re being congratulated by people everywhere we go. It’s cool. “We’re focused. There’s no stopping us from our goal of winning a title this year. We want to be able to put a championship banner on the wall in our gym and come back and see our names on it 20 or 30 years down the road.” Habibi is averaging 16.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 3.8 steals per contest, scoring in double figures in all but three games. Several Ivy League programs, including Princeton and Penn, have expressed interest in the guard, who has nine triple-doubles. “Habibi is a playmaker,” Hamilton said. “He makes things happen. He’s the type of kid that can contribute at the next level.” Polan is the only area player to average more than 20 points and 15 rebounds per game. The forward leads the team with 24.6 points. His 16.2-rebound average is the fifth-highest in the state. Pepperdine, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara have been in contact with Polan, who is leaning towards NYU. He doesn’t plan on making a decision until after the season. “We’re the talk of the town,” Polan said. “Everyone is excited. Even the teachers are behind us. We’re enjoying the ride. This school has been waiting for something like this for a long time.” It will take more than Polan and Habibi to defeat Twentynine Palms, which is in the midst of a 13-game winning streak and has won 23 of its last 24. Four Wildcats score in double-figures, so role players Michael Kendal, Shawn Broukhim and Andrew Farhadi will have to make significant contributions in order for Buckley to capture that elusive title. “We’ve had a clear idea about what we’ve wanted to do since day one, and that’s win a championship,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been devoted to working hard for 365 days and Twentynine Palms is standing in our way. “The players want this. The school wants it. Our community wants it. We’re no longer hungry, we’re greedy.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! It’s not difficult to spot Richie Polan and Hussein Habibi on the campus of Buckley High, a private school sitting on 17 1/2 acres in Sherman Oaks and home to 750 students, ranging from grades K-12. Polan is 6-foot-7, and as lanky as can be with shaggy brown hair. Habibi is 6-2 and has tightly braided cornrows.