Inglewood basketball Coach Vince Combs said it was no mystery why his team was eliminated from the Southern Section 4-AA playoffs Wednesday night.
"We just didn't do all the little things," said Combs, who blamed poor rebounding and defense for the 77-68 quarterfinal loss to Perris at West Torrance High.
"It hurts because, in all due respect to Perris, we should have won. But it's been tough to get these kids to play at both ends of the court. They're so offensive-minded that no one bothers to do the other things."
Ivy League champion Perris (22-5), which advances to the semifinals Friday against Glendora (27-1) and record-scoring forward Tracy Murray, blew open a close game with five uncontested baskets in the final 2:32.
A short bank shot by Inglewood forward Harold Miner, who led all scorers with 28 points, pulled the Sentinels within two, 66-64, with 3:13 left, but Perris answered with an 8-2 run to build a 74-66 margin with 48 seconds left.
"Every time they got the lead or came close, we came right back," said Perris Coach Phil Ward. "That was probably the most important thing we did. That took some wind out of their sails."
Perris received big games from guards Jerry Dalton (24 points) and Kerry Swarn (eight), who continually drove inside for easy buckets against taller Inglewood. Small forward Bryon Samuels added 13 points for the Panthers, five coming in the decisive late run.
"I believe the lack of desire to play defense took us out of the game," Combs said. "We're a much better team that we showed tonight. It's been a roller-coaster kind of year, and it ended on a downward slide."
Inglewood, the Bay League runner-up, finished with a 16-9 record.
The Sentinels, who played without standout forward Steve King (academic ineligibility), lost another key player when starting guard Tommy Holland fouled out with 5:58 remaining and his team trailing by one.
"That hurt tremendously," Combs said, "because he's a senior and a competitive team leader."
With Holland out of the game, Inglewood appeared more vulnerable against the offensive penetration of Perris' quick guards.
At least Ward, the Panthers' coach, saw a difference.
"We have talented guards," he said. "When we spread the court, they had to chase us and they couldn't do it."
Inglewood trailed throughout the first half and didn't take the lead until midway through the third quarter when point guard Johnny Terrell (13 points) scored on a breakaway layup to make it 39-38.
Ward countered by switching to a zone defense in hope of changing the tempo of the game. The maneuver seemed to give Perris a boost as it regained the lead before going back to an aggressive man-to-man defense that attempted to keep the 6-5 Miner from establishing position inside.