For Fans Who Saw Thrilling Game, the Outcome, 53-52, Was PRICEless

March 14, 2012
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Grant Jerrett, No. 33, helped La Verne Lutheran win two state titles and barely missed helping his team win a third.

Grant Jerrett, No. 33, helped La Verne Lutheran win two state titles and barely missed helping his team win a third.

The dream of a winning a third consecutive state championship slipped from the grasp  of La Verne Lutheran on Tuesday night at the University of La Verne when super senior Grant Jerrett couldn’t corral a last second pass from Brian Beard and slam it home for the winning basket. As a result, Price escaped with a 53-52 win and now moves on to the regional Division IV championship at Colony this Saturday for the right to play in the state championship on March 23.

Only seconds before the stunning outcome, Jerrett, the game’s high scorer with 21 points, had put the Trojans on top, 52-51, converting the back-end of two free throw attempts with 29.3 seconds left. On the other end of the floor, however, Skylar Spencer, pulled down an offensive rebound and was low-bridged attempting to score. The senior calmly stroked both charity tosses to stake Price to a 53-52 the lead with 6.9 seconds remaining.

Like Tyus Edney, the UCLA guard whose mad 4.8 second dash down the court helped propel the Bruins past Missouri and on to the 1995 NCAA Championship, Lutherans Beard weaved his way through intense traffic down the court, drawing three defenders, before dumping the ball down in the low post to Jerrett. The quick, underhand dish, however, proved a too hot handle, and in stunning fashion the Trojans’ shot at a third consecutive title was over.

The game played out like a heavyweight box match, with each side punching and counterpunching. The first ended in a draw, 13-13, with Jerrett scoring six points, including a thunderous dunk on a crowd-pleasing alley-oop.

In the second period, Price pulled out to a 26-17 lead. For a moment, it appeared as if Price was ready to deliver the knock-out blow, but Lutheran rallied with a 6-0 run . A great save by Cameron Osorno underneath the Trojans basket flipped the ball to McKay Anderson for two points. Then Jerrett slammed home two more followed by a pair of free throws. Lutheran entered the locker room trailing 28-25.

In the second half, the Trojans ratcheted up the defense, forcing several Price turnovers. Lutheran tied Price 28-28 and again 30-30, before Price finally regained its composure to pull ahead 38-33. Lutheran tried to close the gap, but Price’s Spencer, seemingly storming out of the clouds, swatted two of Eric Cooper’s driving lay-ups. But Lutheran wouldn’t be denied. Brian Beard benefited from a goal-tending call for two points to pull the Trojans within three, 38-35. Lutheran edged closer, 38-37, after Osorno tickled the nets, and then Cooper nailed a deuce to end the quarter, giving the Trojans a 39-38 lead. Again, the Trojans had responded when they had to.

In the fourth and final round, no team ever led by more than three points. The teams tied at 39-39, 47-47, 51-51 before the last 6.9 seconds transpired, bringing the entire crowd to its feet for what was and what might have been.

It was a truly remarkable game, with both teams exerting every last ounce of energy to bring the victory home. But at the end of the night, there would be only trophy and one ticket to the next dance.

The La Verne Lutheran team spent about an hour in the locker room, so no interview with Coach Eric Cooper, Sr., was recorded. None was needed. What could you possibly say?

The statement was made on the court by two championship teams.

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