Trojans Empty the Barrel and Throw Coldwater on Harvard-Westlake, 61-45

March 13, 2011
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Coach Eric Cooper bears the pressure of his Trojans trying to repeat as state champion.

Coach Eric Cooper bears the pressure of his Trojans trying to repeat as state champion.



A cooper is a barrel-maker, and that’s what C.j. Cooper had Harvard-Westlake over, pumping in a game-high 30 points to lead the La Verne Lutheran Trojans to a 61-45 victory over the Wolverines.

After struggling in the CIF loss to Price, Cooper hit the winning shot against Universal City (San Diego) in the first round of the state playoffs, played brilliantly against Orange Lutheran in the second round and seemed to carry that confidence into the game against Harvard-Westlake, where he was near perfect. In the first quarter, he had 10 points and finished the half with 17 points, including three treys.

“I tried to do whatever I could for my team,” Cooper said. “I’m trying to help my team win. Coach told me to be aggressive and I started shooting and feeling it.”

His coach, Eric Cooper, Sr., thinks he knows why C.j. is filling up the nets once again.

After the loss to Price,” Cooper said, “we went down to UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso, where C.j. will play after he hangs up his Trojans jersey), and watched the team play. We had a chance to talk. It was about his being assertive, his being a leader, about the way he wanted to go out, and he responded.”

It was a tight fit for Trojan fans all night long.

It was a tight fit for Trojan fans all night long.

Despite Cooper’s heroics, the Wolverines clawed back with a 14-0 run at the end of the third quarter to trail La Verne by just two points, 36-34. Harvard-Westlake’s home crowd was going crazy, and things couldn’t have looked worse for the Trojans than if Achilles and the rest of his fellow Greeks were ready to sack Troy.

To start the fourth, Grant Jerrett, who finished with 14 points despite minimal touches, scored four straight points on a bucket and two free throws to give the Trojans a little breathing room, at 40-34. After Cooper connected on a high screen to extend the margin to 42-34, Jerrett picked up his fourth foul and had to leave the game.

Remarkably, with their star center on the bench, La Verne Lutheran went on an 8-0 tear with a cold Kevin Payne coming off the bench to nail a baseline jumper, Xavier Jones banking two in off the glass, C.j. floating in another deuce and Eric Cooper, Jr. making a pair of free throws. Lutheran had weathered the storm.

C.j. Cooper

C.j. Cooper

“All good teams are going to put on a run,” Cooper said about the Wolverine’s late third-quarter surge. We had to sustain, as we did last game. But it was win-or-go-home for us, so I knew we weren’t going to lay down.”

The Trojans poured cold water on the Wolverines who play at 3700 Coldwater Canyon. Perhaps, the Westlakers should consider renaming their street, Fruit Street, where the Trojans play and are now enjoying the fruits of victory and starting to prepare for their March 19 Division III state finals showdown against La Canada, a 60-50 winner over Inglewood.

The Trojans are defending state champions. Could they possibly be as good as last year’s team?

“We just have to play our brand of basketball,” Cooper said. “You have to realize we had so many tragedies happen early on in the season (ie., the passing of several Trojan parents and friends close to the program and the cardiac arrest of Xavier Jones, who now plays with a defibrillator) so it took us some time to get to that place we want to be. We’re still not there yet. We have a long way still to grow.”

Are you a better team than the State Championship team from a year ago?

“Oh, much more!”

Trojan Fans: Use the COUPON button on La Verne Online to download great money-saving coupons. For the best in real estate — buying, selling or just want straight, honest advice anytime — call Colleen Bennett at (909) 374-4744. She comes highly recommended by Editor Peter Bennett. Onward and Upward!

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