Story by Matthew Tsai
Print Managing Editor
Photo by Jayden Eden
Boys basketball fell to the Serra Cavaliers in a non-league match, 69-66, on Saturday, April 24.
In a neck and neck battle, South Pas thrived on fast breaks while Serra executed in the half court. The Tigers held a slight lead for most of the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers made a late push and a corner three with three seconds left in the game to secure the win.
“It was a good shot, but [Serra had] a good defensive sequence that just went their way. That’s what happens in basketball,” head coach Ernest Baskerville said. “Maybe next time we are on the other end of the [win.]”
The game started with baskets few and far between, but a series of scrappy defensive plays from junior center Sage Wayans energized the home team. Wayans drew a charge, blocked a shot, and forced a travel, all of which seemed to wake the Tigers from their slow start.
Similar to their blowout Blair win, South Pas got out into transition, and almost everyone contributed to their early 14-10 lead; six different players stamped their names in the scorebook by the end of the first quarter.
In the second, Serra hit a few tough shots, but junior forward Jonny Guy locked in defensively, using his pterodactyl-like wingspan to strip the ball and stifle penetration. Still, the Cavaliers’ stingy half court defense prevented the Tigers from capitalizing on most opportunities.
“[I just tried] focusing on the principles and scouting the coaches have taught us. Every opponent is different, but your approach pretty much stays the same,” Guy said. “We spend a lot of time in practice working on that and it makes a difference when you’re in a close game.”
With two minutes left in the half, junior forward Ezekiel Pannell broke up a pass and sent a full court outlet to open senior guard Tyler Johnson for a layup to put the Tigers up by three. Pannell quickly followed with another lay-in and a corner three, and South Pas ended the quarter, ahead 30-26.
Pannell continued to lead the Tigers offensively, hitting a triple on the wing after Johnson beat the Rattler press. Serra hit a few deep jumpers of its own, but Wayans, who finished with 25, squashed the run with a powerful hop-step hook shot; South Pas led 40-37.
But the Serra press remained persistent, knocking South Pas off of its offensive flow. To make matters worse, while the Tigers seemed frazzled, the Cavaliers calmly hit shot after shot. The home team watched its lead slip away as the visitors took a 47-45 advantage into the fourth frame.
To start the fourth, the Tigers got back to their bread and butter: getting defensive stops and pushing the ball out in transition. During a 7-0 run, Johnson dished out two assists in quick succession and Akers splashed a corner three, prompting a Rattler timeout.
“Getting out on the break is something we want to do whenever possible,” Guy said. “We play best when we can get up the court and take advantage of our length and athleticism.”
That timeout proved to be monumental: Serra rattled off six unanswered points to retake the lead, 53-52, with five minutes left on the clock.
With both teams in double bonus, the game slowed to a back-and-forth free throw shootout. Finally, the Tigers drew an offensive foul, and on the other end, Johnson found junior center Micah Matsuoka for the deuce. The Cavaliers responded and put in a game-tying three with 37.5 seconds remaining.
Yet again, the Serra press caused South Pas headaches, and the Tigers turned the ball over. The home team played solid defense, trapping and recovering, until the Cavaliers knocked down the eventual game-winning bucket as the shot clock expired.
“We tried to zero in on [Serra’s starting guard] because we felt like he was taking the shot. We threw a double team at him when he tried to penetrate, which forced him to give up the ball,” Baskerville said. “Our help side defenders scrambled to contest the player with a good closeout, but he knocked it down.”
The Tigers will play La Cañada on Wednesday, April 28.