Trip To CIF Finals Makes Serra Smile

The throng gathered early at Torrance's Bishop Montgomery High, eagerly anticipating the CIF-SS semifinal battle of Div. IV boys basketball heavyweights, defending Southern Section champ Downey Calvary Chapel and perennial small-school power Gardena Serra. The teams raced up and down the court to little effect early. But when Cameron Grider picked up his third foul with less than a minute left in the first quarter, things quickly turned grisly for Calvary Chapel in the 91-68 loss.

Taking control of the boards, Serra, paced by 6-5 junior forward Chris Hemphill, quickly took over the game. His jam off a 2-on-1 break gave him 11 first quarter points and the Cavaliers, ranked No. 2 in the state in Div. IV by Cal-Hi Sports, a 21-13 lead after one.

It quickly went from bad to worse for the undersized Grizzlies. With their two big men on the bench in foul trouble and standout sophomore Ralph Miley suffering through a subpar night, Serra converged on star Calvary Chapel point guard Tim Drisdom. The Utah-bound senior canned a three-ball to pull his team to within 23-18 midway through the second quarter. But Serra scored 23 of the next 33 points to put the game away.

The hero of the moment for the Cavs was 5-9 senior Eugene "Pooh" Jeter. The jet quick point guard tore through the Downey defense at will, scoring, setting up his teammates or inducing the whistle-happy refs to send him to the line. When Jeter raced the length of the court with 3.8 seconds left in the half to score a lay-in at the buzzer, Serra's lead was 46-28 and the contest essentially was over.

As a champion loaded with 10 seniors should, Calvary Chapel came out smoking in the second half, scoring 12 of the first 18 points to cut Serra's advantage to 52-40. But Hemphill, huge all night, quickly restored order with a lay-up and fast break dunk.

Jeter, who finished with 31 points, capped the win with a long trey three minutes into the fourth quarter, you know the kind of shot he really shouldn't have taken, but which felt so good when it hit nothing but net. Hemphill then punctuated his huge night with another two-handed stuff, his eighth rim shaker of the night. Calvary Chapel could do little but watch and admire.

"Serra did a great job defensively," said Calvary Chapel coach Mark Berokoff. "You can't fault our players. They've had a great four years."

Drisdom scored 23 points to lead the Grizzlies, who team finished the year 24-5. Johnathan James added 17.

Jeter may have led Serra with 31 points, but the key to the game was Hemphill, who scored 26 and was active around the cup all night.

"I just knew the game was on the line," he said. "I didn't want to let my teammates down, especially the seniors."

Serra, which improved to 26-3, will face Verbum Dei, also 26-3 after tonight's win over Montclair Prep, in the CIF final Friday at Loyola Marymount. Hemphill said his team still has some unfinished business.

"We're going to have a hard week of practice," he explained. "Friday's a big game. We're going to be ready."

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