Guard Mike Pagan and Los Angeles Verbum Dei High mastered the eye-popping drives, the long jumpers and the tricky shots around the basket.
When it came to free throws, the most elementary aspect of the game, Pagan and the Eagles played like novices.
Pagan made one of eight free throws in the fourth quarter as Verbum Dei's comeback fell short during a 69-65 loss to Huntington Beach Ocean View, which is ranked No. 14 in the Southland by The Times. As a team, the No. 15 Eagles made only six of 17 free throws in the final eight minutes.
At one point, Pagan looked as if he would be the hero, scoring on a drive with under a minute left to trim a deficit that had been as large as 14 points in the third quarter to three at 66-63. Cedric Nolden made a steal to give the Eagles possession again, but Mike Davis missed on a drive to the basket.
Verbum Dei (9-6) got the ball back after a jump ball, but Pagan missed two free throws. Alan Kreymer made one of two free throws for Ocean View (15-3) to give the Seahawks a four-point lead.
Pagan made a layup with eight seconds left to make it 67-65, but Matt Sargeant's two free throws with four seconds to go set the final margin.
Pagan finished with a team-high 22 points. "He was tough to defend so we fouled him a lot," Ocean View Coach Jim Harris said of the shifty 5-foot-8 guard.
Sargeant had 25 points for Ocean View, which made 23 of 27 free throws. Greg Okwudibonye finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Casey Ortiz had 14 points for the Seahawks.
Mike Bell scored 16 points and Amir Johnson had 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for Verbum Dei.
Santa Ana Mater Dei 81, Miami Christian 67 -- Playing its second game in Southern California in eight days and having logged more than 20,000 miles this season, Miami Christian seemed to fall asleep after leading by as much as 13 points late in the first quarter.
"It looked like they just hit a wall," said Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight, whose Monarchs used a 28-8 run during the second and third quarters to take control of the game.
"I wouldn't have invited them if I knew they were playing [in Southern California] last week."
Wesley Washington scored 15 points to lead a balanced attack for Mater Dei (17-2), the top-ranked team in the Southland. Marcel Jones and Harrison Schaen added 14 points apiece and Trevante Nelson had 13.
Guillermo Diaz and Jesus Verdejo scored 23 points apiece for the nationally ranked Victors (13-5), who completed a whirlwind month in which they also traveled to Hawaii.
Miami Christian Coach Art Alvarez said the team traveled 23,000 miles.
Bellflower St. John Bosco 62, Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley 52 -- Eric Lane scored eight of his team-high 21 points in the third quarter for the No. 22 Braves (14-4), who pulled away from the cold-shooting Cougars (12-5).
Capistrano Valley led by as many as eight points in the second quarter and held a one-point advantage at halftime. But St. John Bosco reeled off an 18-2 run to close the second quarter and open the third.
Cougar forward Davis Baker countered with three consecutive baskets midway through the third quarter to pull Capistrano Valley within 35-33 before St. John Bosco scored nine unanswered points to put the game away.
Mike Davis scored 13 points and Robert Reynaga had 11 for the Braves.
Baker registered game highs with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Cougars, who shot 33.3% from the field.