JSerra's Jamal Aytes, center, fights for the ball against Serra High in the CIF-SS Division 4AA quarterfinal at Serra High in Gardena on Tuesday.

JSerra loses to Serra on last-second shot


GARDENA – It didn't take long for the JSerra basketball team to go from the cusp of victory to the anguish of defeat.

The third-seeded Lions, who trailed for the majority of Tuesday's CIF-SS Division 4AA quarterfinal game at Serra of Gardena, led by four with 1:11 left.

Their lead wouldn't grow.

The fourth-seeded Cavaliers (23-6) scored the final seven points, including Jeremy Wright's 3-pointer as time expired, for a 69-66 victory over the Lions (17-9).

"We were up four (66-62) with a minute to go. If we just blocked out (on the free-throw attempts) at the end, just get one, we possibly win the game," JSerra coach Joedy Gardner said. "That was a tough shot (Wright's game-winner). Last-second shots are tough."

On two separate occasions down the stretch, Serra made the first free throw, but missed the second. However, the Cavaliers got the rebound both times. The final time came after Ajon Efferson had tied the score at 66-66.

The Lions trailed 53-42 going into the fourth, but they went on an eight-point run to tie the score, 57-57, on two free throws by Xavier Williams.

JSerra took its first lead of the game on a Nick Pallas 3-pointer midway through the fourth.

"The guys played hard, and when they give you a 110 percent, you can't ask for more," Gardner said. "We knew we had another run in us. We knew our pressure was bothering them a little bit and we were lucky to get some of those turnovers and capitalize on them.

“This team never thinks they’re out of it. We had so many close games … we’re up four with a minute to go, that’s usually when you want to run your offense and execute, but at that point, we didn’t do the things that we needed to do to win. It was unlucky, but I’m proud of my guys.”

Jamal Aytes scored 19 for JSerra. Rex Pflueger added 17.

Serra will host Crespi in the semifinals Friday. Crespi upset second-seeded Price of Los Angeles, 70-67.

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