Playing at Another Level, La Verne Lutheran Cruises to 94-21 Win

January 26, 2010
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The Trojans' Grant Jerrett, seen here during warm-ups, has been pretty much unstoppable thus far, and he's only a sophomore.

The Trojans' Grant Jerrett, seen here during warm-ups, has been pretty much unstoppable thus far, and he's only a sophomore.

La Verne Lutheran’s basketball team (3-0) has been compared to a big fish in a small pond. Somebody got it wrong. After their destruction of Upland Christian, 94-21, they are more like Moby Dick in a puddle.

Against the Eagles on a rainy Tuesday night in the Trojans’ home gym, La Verne raced out to a 16-0 lead before the timer warmed up. It closed out the quarter leading 40-6. It wasn’t the first time the Trojans scored 40 points in a quarter this year. Nor is it likely to be the last.

Trojans Guard C.J. Cooper was dishing out assists the way the Colts’ Peyton Manning tosses touchdowns. At the half, 6-foot-8 Grant Jerrett had 18 points, perfect from every corner of the floor, burnishing his ranking as one of the nation’s top players, according to ESPN’s national rankings.

Yet the Trojans are an unselfish team. Also in the half, Kevin Payne poured in four 3-three pointers for 12 points and Bruce English collected nine points. Xavier Jones, the Trojans’ 6-foot-8 center helped key the Trojans potent fast break.

If the real Trojans from antiquity had these guys on their side, they might never have lost to the Greeks in the Trojan War. If former USC coach Pete Carroll had these same players, he might still be in Los Angeles.

The only thing that slowed down the Trojans on Tuesday was the running clock in the second half, and Coach Earl Cooper who only ran his first unit two quarters. Trouble is, the second unit also boasts solid scorers and play makers such as Jay Miller, who scored eight, and Nick Colletta, another silky shooter, who had 11.

Last year, the Trojans had similar regular–season walkovers before losing in the Division 5 finals. Cooper is using that loss to motivate his players. “I’m trying to get them to stay focused,” Coach Cooper said. “We’re winning big.”

The Trojans boast several gifted shooters, but against Upland Christian they never had to turn up the defensive intensity. If they had, they could have easily scored in triple digits. “I can’t do that,” Cooper said. “I spend most of the time trying to figure out how not to run up the score and still play hard.

“It’s a hard thing to do.”

At the start of the game, the Trojans pressed and trapped, but after sprinting out to a quick lead, Cooper took off the heat. To Cooper’s credit, he scheduled a highly competitive preseason for his team, facing such quality opponents as Dorsey, Centennial, Clovis East, Bishop Gorman and Leuzinger. Now in league, it’s as if the Trojans are victims of their own success. With no one to challenge them, they have to wait for the playoffs where the intensity of play will again ratchet up and test the talented team.

Despite another remarkable performance turned in by the Trojans, there were few fans in the stands to appreciate their mastery, sort of like Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel by himself. Of course, only about 150 students attend La Verne Lutheran. Regardless, the school’s basketball I.Q. is off the charts.

“We had about 60 people here, that’s a good number given the size of the school,” Cooper said. “That’s a better percentage than if 200 people turned out from a school with 3,000 students.”

On the Trojans’ quick start, Cooper said, “It kind of shows you what we can do. But as I tell the kids, we’re not here to run the score up. We’re just trying to stay focused so we can prepare for the playoffs.”

Again, to his credit, Cooper’s team on any given night could be up by 40 points, but if he sees an effort he doesn’t like, he’s off the bench and getting on the offending player.

“If you get beat to the basket or have a mental lapse, you’ll be sitting with me until I can correct the problem,” Cooper said.

What’s scary for opponents is the nationally-ranked Jerrett is just a sophomore. He’s not going away any time soon. In fact, everyone who stepped on the floor for the Trojans on Tuesday is coming back next year. Jones, a junior, is rated the fifth best center for his age group in California, according to Cooper. As for pure athleticism, again the Trojans are blessed. Everyone on the team can get above the rim and dunk.

Slam dunks and great athleticism can take a team a long way. But it will take a special coach, not unlike Phil Jackson when he was coaching the Chicago Bulls and now the Los Angeles Lakers, to harness all that talent to win it all.

Stay tuned.

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