SOUTHERN SECTION 4-A CHAMPIONSHIP : Verbum Dei Holds Off Serra in OT, 87-81, for 4-A Title


Verbum Dei High wasn't particularly sharp from the free-throw line against Serra on Friday night. Fortunately for the Eagles, neither was Serra.

A missed Serra free throw with no time left in regulation enabled Verbum Dei to escape with an 87-81 overtime victory before 3,257 in the Southern Section Division 4-A basketball final at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center.

Verbum Dei was 20 of 40 from the free-throw line while Serra made 19 of 36. The Cavaliers, however, failed to convert the most crucial free throw of all.

With no time showing on the clock and the players cleared from the court, Serra's Gene Parker made the first of two free throws to tie the score, 76-76.

The second shot, however, bounced off the front of the rim, sending the game into overtime.

Verbum Dei had a 76-75 lead in the closing seconds of regulation

when Parker was fouled driving to thg basket as time expired.

"I just prayed he would miss that one," said senior forward Andre Larry, who had a game-high 21 points and 15 rebounds. "When he missed that one, I knew our team was going to take control in overtime."

The Eagles built an 81-76 lead on a layup by Andre Smith, but Verbum Dei missed the front end of three consecutive one-and-one situations to allow Serra to creep to within 81-79 with 48 seconds left.

Hasani Acklin finally converted a pair of free throws with 22 seconds to play to give the Eagles an 83-79 lead.

Acklin, however, was whistled for a technical for arguing while at the free-throw line, giving the Cavaliers two foul shots and possession.

Serra's Milton Palacio, though, missed both technicals and a three-point shot with 10 seconds to play. / Smith had 19 points for top-seeded and defending champion Verbum Dei, which won its ninth title in school history and avenged a defeat to Serra in the 1993 final.

Hasani Acklin scored 16 and Deon Williams contributed 12 points and six assists.

Records: Serra 17-11; Verbum Dei 22-5.

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