The final buzzer already had sounded when Adam Keefe made the news emphatic with a fast-break dunk: Woodbridge High School is going to the 2-A championship game.
The basket didn't count, but what did it matter? Keefe scored a career-high 34 points without it, leading Woodbridge to a 73-65 semifinal victory over Victor Valley Wednesday night at Apple Valley High School.
The Warriors (24-5) have won 14 straight and will play Banning for the title at 12:15 p.m. Saturday in the Sports Arena.
Woodbridge trailed by seven as late as the third quarter but came back to win behind Keefe, who scored 18 of the Warriors' 24 points in the crucial third period.
"I'd put an 'S' on that kid tonight," said Victor Valley Coach Ollie Butler, in reference to Keefe's Superman-like performance.
Keefe didn't score in the first five minutes of the game, and scored just four field goals in the first half--he added 8-of-8 free throws to finish with 16 in the half.
But the second half--and the third quarter, in particular--was all his.
Woodbridge trailed, 49-43, with 4:28 to play in the third quarter when Keefe threw a fake inside and scored, cutting the lead to four. Thirty seconds later, he cut it to two, and the next time down the court he handled the ball himself, pulling up for a short jumper to tie it, 49-49.
Steve Clay, who led Victor Valley with 29 points, made a driving layup that gave the Jackrabbits the lead again, but it was only momentary.
Keefe tied it, 51-51, on a short jumper and then gave Woodbridge its first lead since the first quarter when he followed Dave Townsend's miss on a fast-break layup with a dunk.
Townsend then made a steal and followed it with a layup and a free throw to make it 56-51.
Clay cut it to three with another of his floating moves in the lane, but Townsend then found Keefe with a lob, and it was 58-53.
Victor Valley never got closer than three points again.
"I'll tell you, (Keefe) seems to get a fire in his eyes," Woodbridge Coach Bill Shannon said of the 6-foot 8-inch junior. "I told my assistant we needed to get the ball to the big guy, but he came out and got it himself."
Said Keefe: "It just all started working. The ball just started falling. When I went up, they went in."
And sometimes when Keefe went up, they came down. He had 22 rebounds, one short of the school-record 23 he had in the quarterfinals.
Victor Valley, which had won 14 of its last 15 games, finished at 21-6.
What Woodbridge didn't get from Keefe, it got from Vince Bryan, who scored 16, including three key baskets in the fourth quarter, staving off a comeback. Townsend added 11.
But for the most part, the game was an indirect battle between the 6-8 Keefe and the 6-1 Clay.
Victor Valley didn't have a player taller than 6-4 to counter Keefe or Bryan, who is 6-6.
But the Jackrabbits did have Clay, and Woodbridge had no one fast enough to stop him. Clay scored 11 points in the first quarter as Victor Valley pulled out to a four-point lead. With help from Paul Portis, Clay had Victor Valley ahead by as many as seven in the first half before Woodbridge made a 9-3 run that cut it to one at the half.
"We made some switches and changed up our defenses," Shannon said.
Said Butler: "You just can't beat the big guy inside. We couldn't win it with a 6-1 point guard."