Boys Hoops Semifinals
Price 63, La Verne Lutheran 58
Harvard Westlake 59, Damien 56
Damien misses 3 at buzzer:
By Fred J. Robledo
La Verne Lutheran staged a furious fourth-quarter rally against visiting Price in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA boys basketball semifinals at Citrus College on Friday, but the Trojans attempt to advance to a fourth straight divisional final came up short, 63-58. (To continue click thread).
The Trojans trailed by 21 points with 3:40 left in the third quarter but finished the quarter with a 5-0 run and kept the momentum going in the fourth.
The Trojans opened the final quarter with a staggering 18-4 run to trim Price’s lead to 55-53 with 2:08 left — anyone’s game at that point with the Trojans home crowd going nuts.
“That’s an excellent basketball team,” Price coach Michael Lynch said. “We didn’t expect them to lay down and I told our guys at halftime they would make a run. They got their crowd going and we didn’t handle the ball well against their pressure.
“All of a sudden, we were in a game.”
Price senior guard Askia Booker, who is on his way to the University of Colorado, saved the Knights.
Booker finished with a team-high 20 points, answering the Trojans’ run by attacking the basket, getting fouled and making two free throws to push the Knights ahead, 57-53 with 1:45 left.
After the Trojans missed a 3-pointer that would have trimmed the lead to one, Booker got to the free throw line again and made both free throws, stretching Price’s lead to 59-53 with 49 seconds left.
After the Trojans missed another 3-pointer, their dreams of a magical comeback faded away.
“It was one of those days,” Lutheran coach Eric Cooper said. “We waited for the second half for everyone to play with energy. That was the key, we should have played in the beginning like we played at the end.”
Lutheran’s 6-foot-9 junior Grant Jerrett, who already has given a verbal commitment to attend Arizona, thoroughly outplayed Price’s 6-foot-9 senior Norvel Pelle, who is headed to St. John’s.
Jerrett sparked the Trojans’ fourth quarter rally, scoring 12 of his game high 26 points to go with nine rebounds and four blocks.
Defensively, Jerrett held Pelle to just 10 points.
“I’ve loved him (Jerrett) since his freshman year,” Lynch said. “He’s an excellent player with a great future. He really brought it.”
The Trojans’ Cameron Osorno scored 15 points and Eric Cooper Jr., and Bruce English finished with 5 apiece.
Both coaches thought it was a shame they didn’t have an opportunity to meet in a championship instead of a semifinal.
Price (22-6), winners of 10 CIF-SS divisional titles since 1999 and six state championships, is hoping to win its second consecutive divisional title next week against La Canada, along with a second consecutive state title next month.
Lutheran, which had advanced to three straight divisional titles and won twice, also was a defending divisional and state champ.
It was Lutheran’s second loss to Price this year. They lost 80-65 in January during a showcase event at the University of La Verne.
“I don’t want to get into somebody should of been here or there, but they would have represented the other side (of the bracket) very well,” Lynch said. “We knew this would have the feel of a championship game.”
By reaching the divisional semifinals the Trojans (21-5) qualify for the state playoffs, but will need an at-large berth to get in when teams are announced after the divisional championships next week.
“We’ll see what happens,” Cooper said. “The guys picking aren’t the type that necessarily give us the benefit of the doubt, but we’ll see.”