Tuesday night was a rare home game for the La Verne Lutheran High School basketball team. In fact, due to the Trojans’ national schedule, its 75-45 defeat of Montclair was just the third time this season they played a team from the Inland Valley.
Having compiled a 9-4 record against teams from South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and all parts of California, welcoming an undefeated Montclair team to its gym didn’t faze the two-time defending state champions.
Arizona signee Grant Jerrett scored all 25 of his points in the first three quarters and the 6-foot-10 power forward added 14 rebounds and six blocks as the Trojans (10-4) built a double-digit lead in the first quarter, led by 21 at the half and 30 less than three minutes into the third quarter.
“They’re as good as anyone in this area and we scheduled them for that reason,” Montclair coach Bill Blades said. “I know these guys are technically in a lower division, but they play all the teams from our division. We’ve got to learn from a loss like this.”
Having won all three tournaments in which it played – Jurupa Valley, Arroyo and Atascadero – Montclair (13-1) was hoping to give La Verne Lutheran a more competitive game. The Trojans forced 19 turnovers, 14 in the first half, en route to a blowout. Cavaliers leading scorer Devyn Sampson was held below his average, notching four of his 11 points in the final two minutes of the game. Second leading scorer Bobby Talamantes was limited to five points.
When La Verne Lutheran’s pressure defense wasn’t forcing turnovers, it rushed the Cavaliers into hurried attempts and countered with a fast break aided by sophomore point guard Brian Beard’s 15 assists.
Junior McKay Anderson, who stands 6-6, had 14 points and seven rebounds while Arizona commit Eric Cooper Jr. and Nnamdi Okongwu scored 13 apiece. Okongwu, a 6-8 freshman, added to his career night with 10 rebounds.
The Trojans graduated three starters from last season’s CIF Division III state championship team, but coach Eric Cooper believes this year’s team is the best the school has ever had.
“I’m not saying we’re going to win the championship, but Grant (Jerrett) is really good, better than most kids in the country, and the rest of the guys are really good role players,” Cooper said. “We’ve got more height than last year and I think this team is actually better than last year’s.”
Jerrett may have the most height on the court, but the big man showed his range with four 3-pointers. His third from beyond the arc gave the Trojans a 33-11 lead midway through the second quarter. His final 3-pointer ballooned the lead to 56-23 late in the third quarter.
“We had a plan to quickly double (Jerrett),” Blades said. “We thought about fronting him, but leaving the weak side open is dangerous. When he pulls out and shoots the 3s, he’s really dangerous. I knew he could shoot but this was quite a performance.”