By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
Suffering and trials can lead to jubilation. La Verne Lutheran High School senior Kevin Payne Jr. lost his father in August in a horrific freeway accident. Xavier Jones collapsed during a November practice this season, suffering from heart issues. Saturday afternoon, in the biggest game of his life, Payne found that a pair of 3-point baskets can overcome all that pain and suffering.
He hit key back-to-back 3-pointers to help give the Trojans the CIF State Division III title with a 64-59 victory over Northern California champion Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland at Power Balance Pavilion. (To continue click thread)
Robledo’s reaction: I hope Lutheran is enjoying commenters who still don’t want to give them their just due. For those who still don’t get it, Lutheran didn’t buy there was to anything, they earned it. What they did as an at-large is a remarkable and incredible accomplishment. If you think you can just throw out a basketball to bunch of talented players and win back-to-back state titles you’re mistaken. Just look at your NCAA tournament bracket if you don’t understand, talent only gets you so far, the rest is desire and coaching. At the state level everyone has talented players and D-3 had one of the more stacked brackets of all the divisions. Lutheran worked their butts off and their coaching staff worked their butts off to pull off one of the more remarkable titles in Valley history. Those who don’t appreciate it were never going to appreciate it, they’re mostly haters and a bunch of sour grapes. I don’t care if nobody likes Goliath – but this was no Goliath. Nobody thought Lutheran could win a D-3 title after sneaking into the tournament, and they did it without a home game. They OVER-ACHIEVED to the tune of a SoCal Regional and State title.
Payne hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Trojans a 61-59 lead with 1:42 to play. He became the Dragons’ slayer when he knocked down another 3-pointer on the next trip down the floor, the game’s final points, with 1:07 to play.
“This is a storybook ending,” the 6-foot-2 reserve said. “It’s a fairy tale right now, from everything that has happened. I felt like quitting and my (teammates) would not let me do it. Coach (Eric) Cooper talked with me and I stuck with it.
“I lived for this moment.”
Meanwhile, Jones went to a Sacramento-area hospital after playing only 3 minutes, 22 seconds. The starter’s heart defibrillator, which is permanently connected to his chest, went off. The machine was reset at the hospital after he calmed down, and he rode home with the team Saturday night.
“I guess he was very excited,” Cooper said. “He came to me and said, `I have to go out.’ We started the game off without him, and that was a big thing for us.”
Lutheran won its second consecutive state crown after taking the Division V title last season. O’Dowd reached the Division III title game for the second consecutive year and lost for the seventh time in eight tries, the past four in Division III. The last time the Dragons won a title was in 1981, the first year of the reintroduction of the tournament.
The Trojans, who missed their first six 3-point attempts, didn’t miss in the fourth quarter. With the Trojans trailing 49-42 and on the verge of getting knocked out, C.J. Cooper and Grant Jerrett hit back-to-back 3-pointers, then Cooper completed a three-point play to tie it 51-51.
“I had to step up,” point guard Cooper said. “There was a sense of urgency.”
The Dragons took their last lead, 59-58, with 2:02 to play when Brandon Ashley, who had a game-high 26 points, scored on a layup. They double-teamed Cooper down the stretch and he found Payne, who made a season-high 10 3-pointers in a victory earlier this season, wide open in the corner. Payne raised his finger, to his father, after hitting the shot. He raised his finger to
La Verne Lutheran wins state title
Grant Jerrett, from Lutheran High School of La Verne, right, goes up for the rebound against Brandon Ashley, left, and Richard Longrus, Jr., from Bishop O’ Dowd of Oakland, during the second half of the Boys Division III High School Championship game in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, March 26, 2011. Lutheran won 64-59.
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
his mother, Theresa, after the second successful shot.
“After the first one, I was very surprised they sagged off of me too much,” he said. “As soon as I lifted my hands, I knew it was going in.
“I kept waving to C.J. to penetrate to my side because I wanted to shoot it. There was an angel watching over all of us.”
It was an unlikely finish for the Trojans. Payne, junior Eric Cooper Jr. and Bruce English sat out extended minutes in the second half with four fouls each.
“He’s always been our best shooter,” Eric Cooper said of Payne. “He has gone through tough times, and when you go through tough times, you have to find yourself. It’s good that he found himself now.
“A bunch of guys with a lot of heart stepped up big. It’s timing. You can’t play everybody. When they get their opportunities, they step up and play.”
Cameron Osorno had a team co-high 16 points, along with Jerrett.