In the end, Crenshaw was full of energy, chasing down every loose ball, tipping each pass. Santa Ana Mater Dei was done, worn down after 32 minutes of Crenshaw pressure.
Cougar guard Kevin Bradley was at the free-throw line, sinking basket after basket, wrapping up Crenshaw's 78-67 victory at the Pond of Anaheim in the boys' State Southern Regional Division I final. Mater Dei forward Tom Lippold had his hands on his knees, his lungs screaming for air.
"We knew we could wear them down," Bradley said after the game. "We knew they couldn't keep up with us."
It seems no one can, particularly not the Monarchs, who lost in front of 9,347 fans, and must watch as Crenshaw represents the South at next weekend's state finals at Sacramento's Arco Arena.
"We didn't expect them to run with us, and when they did in the first half, it played to our advantage," Crenshaw Coach Willie West said. "I'm just proud of my team because many people didn't think we could get this far, including me."
Crenshaw (25-5) gave Mater Dei a lesson in Willie West basketball, a fast-paced, quick-shot attack that eventually broke down the Monarchs, causing 22 turnovers, 14 when the Cougars pulled away in the second half.
Said Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight:"We tried to make it a half-court game, tried to slow it down, but in the third quarter fatigue set in."
But Mater Dei, tired and depleted, hung on until just under three minutes remained. But then, trailing 66-62, Mater Dei forward Brad Williams was called for traveling after pulling down an offensive rebound.
After Bradley made two free throws, Lippold was called for traveling as he side-stepped a defender on the way to the basket. Bradley converted on a layup on the other end, and Lippold then threw away a pass on the Monarchs' next possession. It was 70-62 at that point, and Crenshaw made eight of 10 free throws in the final two minutes.
Crenshaw was led by Alastair Faux's 21 points, 15 coming in the second half, and by Bradley and forward Derrick Anderson, who scored 19 and 15, respectively.
Lippold led Mater Dei with 26 points and 18 rebounds. Mike Vukovich scored 10. Point guard Kevin Augustine, who came into the game averaging 19.5 points, scored only seven.
"We tried to shut him down from the outside," West said of Augustine. "We singled out one player to stop and it was him."
Lippold kept Mater Dei close in the first half. The 6-foot-6 forward scored nine of the Monarchs' first 11 points and finished with 16 for in the half, to go with nine rebounds. He was on the finishing end of a number of breakaways, as Augustine handled the Crenshaw pressure in the backcourt.
"I looked up at the scoreboard [at halftime], but I didn't care how many points I had," Faux said. "We knew they had been averaging only like 40 points per game, and they weren't going to be able to keep up."
Said Mater Dei's Jason Vallas: "I think if we could have played more guys we could have hung with them [after the third quarter]. We just didn't have the legs."