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SOUTHERN SECTION BASKETBALL PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIPS : Parks Shut Down, Marina Falls

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Where other, maybe better, teams failed, Santa Barbara prevailed.

The Dons, unseeded and perhaps overlooked, took destiny away from Marina with a 50-49 victory Saturday in the Southern Section Division I-A championship game at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. They did so by doing the unthinkable--by making Cherokee Parks a non-factor.

Parks scored 19 points in the biggest game of his career, but had only six in the second half and only two in the fourth quarter. The Dons threw body after body at him, pushed and shoved him, and it worked.

Yes, the Dons did the impossible and they still needed to survive a last flurry from Marina, which trailed by seven with a minute left. The Vikings had a chance to tie the score in the final 25 seconds, but turned over the ball and their season.

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With the Dons leading, 48-46, Sean Haselrig was called for traveling with 21 seconds left. Santa Barbara (26-5) then got a dunk from David Palmer to clinch the victory.

Mike Carreon made a three-pointer with seven seconds left, but the Vikings were out of timeouts and could not stop the clock.

“We had a good run,” Haselrig said. “We played some good basketball the last 14 games. We just came up short.”

The Vikings (19-11) had won 12 of their last 13 games coming into the game, including victories over No. 1 seeded Mater Dei and No. 4 seeded San Bernardino. However, they couldn’t adjust to the Dons, who controlled the game from the second quarter on.

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“We got behind and never got a chance to dictate the game,” Marina Coach Steve Popovich said. “They pulled us out of our zone and created mismatch problems.”

Santa Barbara’s front line of Matt Purdy (6-foot-8), Erwin Roelofs (6-8) and David Palmer (6-7) caused the Vikings problems.

Palmer, who missed part of the season with a knee injury, scored 18 points, 10 in the first half. He also had 16 rebounds.

Palmer scored eight consecutive points at the start of the second quarter to give the Dons a 19-17 lead. They never trailed again.

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Purdy scored 16 points, 11 in the second half. Twice in the third quarter, he scored baskets after the Vikings had cut the Dons’ lead to two.

While Palmer and Purdy got the points, Roelofs did the dirty work. It was Roelofs who was assigned the task of bumping and grinding with Parks, a 6-11 senior. He did so effectively, as the Duke-bound center went 12 minutes and 6 seconds without a field goal during the second and third quarters.

Roelofs fouled out with 5:41 left, but he had helped wear down Parks, who missed two one-and-one free-throw attempts and took only one shot in the fourth quarter.

In the Vikings’ previous game against Mater Dei, Parks had several rim-rattling, team-motivating dunks. On Saturday, he had one in the first quarter and was fouled any time he got close another for another.

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“He’s a real physical player, just like they are in Europe,” Parks said. “He stayed on me no matter where I was at.”

Leading, 37-35, after three quarters, the Dons got some breathing room. They outscored Marina, 7-2, to start the fourth quarter with a 44-37 lead.

From there, Santa Barbara played keep-away, using a four-corners offense that made the Vikings chase them all over the court.

“We were in foul trouble, so I wanted to slow the tempo down,” Santa Barbara Coach Bob Purdy said. “With a seven-point lead, I thought we could run the clock.”

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It almost backfired.

But the Vikings made one last run for the title.

A layup by Darren Crooks capped a 6-0 run that cut the deficit to 48-46. The Dons then turned the ball over, giving Marina a chance to tie.

The Vikings looked for Parks, who finally got it on the post. However, instead of shooting, he passed back out to Haselrig, who was called for traveling.

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