Never before had 6-foot-6 senior Dakarai Tucker of Gardena Serra delivered a performance quite like Friday night in a Southern Section Division 4AA semifinal against Los Angeles Price.
"He was phenomenal," said Serra Coach Dwan Hurt.
Tucker scored a career-high 33 points to help the top-seeded Cavaliers (28-2) come away with a hard-fought 70-63 victory over Price.
Serra will face La Verne Lutheran in next week's final. Lutheran defeated Encino Crespi, 51-49.
There were so many prolific dunks by Price's 6-foot-8 Skylar Spencer that NBA players would have applauded. He finished with 17 points, five blocks and four dunks, but in the end, Serra was able to get defensive stops in the final minute and convert clutch free throws to earn the victory.
"I didn't want this to be my last game," Tucker said. "I didn't want to lose. I did what I do best — shoot the ball."
The game was tied, 33-33, at halftime. Price (23-8) had a 52-50 lead after three quarters. Serra went on a 7-0 run to take a 61-54 lead. Then Price rallied to close to 64-63 with 1:20 left.
That's when the Cavaliers got tough on defense. Tucker made two free throws with 33 seconds left. He made two more free throws with 13 seconds left. It was a fitting next-to-last playoff game for a division that has been filled with top games.
"It was all about focus," Tucker said. "We fear nobody."
Added Hurt: "It came down to a possession game. We wanted to utilize every offensive possession and every defensive possession."
In the 1AA playoffs, Roschon Prince of Long Beach Poly scored 40 points in a 77-67 quarterfinal win over Rialto Eisenhower. Poly will face Etiwanda in one semifinal, with Santa Ana Mater Dei taking on Los Angeles Loyola in the other semifinal.
Mater Dei defeated Santa Ana Foothill, 72-60. Katin Reinhardt had 26 points. Loyola defeated Upland, 69-63. Etiwanda defeated Santa Monica, 89-62. Jordan McLaughlin scored 28 points.
In 3A, Oak Park upset No. 2-seeded St. John Bosco, 67-66. Ron Lee Jr. scored 27 points. Oak Park will play top-seeded Mission Hills Alemany in the final.