Big plays and big men proved to be an effective combination for Serra (Calif.) on Tuesday.
The Cavaliers, who feature three players between 6 feet 7 inches and 6-10, used their size to take an early lead, then came up with key plays after Palo Verde rallied in the second half.
And in the end, Serra came away with a 71-62 win in the championship game of the Las Vegas Prep Championship at Las Vegas High.
Serra led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but Palo Verde cut the lead to 56-55 on a 3-pointer by Davion Pearson with 6:12 to play.
But the Cavaliers answered with a 3-pointer by Steven Hester on the ensuing position, then went inside to 6-8 sophomore Ronnie Stevens to make it 61-55 with 5:22 left.
“Those guys battled, we just couldn’t close it out,” Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. “But we battled and stuck it out. You’ve got to credit that team. That team didn’t get rattled. They competed and they matched our effort, and that’s what you should do.”
Palo Verde made one final run, cutting the lead to 66-62 on a 3-pointer by Moses Morgan with 1:10 to go.
But Serra pushed the ball downcourt to 6-10 sophomore Kevin Johnson, who was fouled on his dunk. He completed the three-point play for a 69-62 lead. Johnson and Stevens each had a blocked shot in the closing minute to seal the win.
“They got a transition dunk, and that just sort of zipped the confidence out of whatever little run we did have,” Riley said. “And we couldn’t make shots. The bigs got out and contested some of our shot attempts.”
Johnson, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, had 19 points, 16 rebounds and two blocked shots. He helped the Cavaliers to a 43-23 rebound advantage.
Palo Verde helped offset that rebound edge by scoring 31 points off 30 Serra turnovers.
“That was a difficult game, but it was a great challenge for us, because that’s what we’re going to face in the playoffs,” Riley said. “Maybe not that type of size, but a team with that kind of confidence in themselves.”
D.J. Stennis led Palo Verde with 15 points, five rebounds and eight assists. Andrew Topham (13), Morgan (11) and Bryce Cotton (10) also scored in double figures for the Panthers.
Centennial 56, Western 47 — Ben Vozzola hit three 3-pointers and scored 13 of his 14 points in the second half to lead the Bulldogs over the Warriors in the third-place game.
Matt Holley added 13 points for Centennial.
Brad Cairo led Western with 12 points. Anterion Cannon and Melvin Washington each added 10 points for the Warriors.
Sierra Vista 81, Eldorado 76 — Quinten Chow had 32 points as the Mountain Lions outlasted the Sundevils for fifth place.
Amir Garrett added 23 points, including 15 in the second half, for Sierra Vista. Brian Zimmerman scored 12 for the Mountain Lions.
Eldorado’s Mitrell Clark scored 31 of his game-high 39 points in the second half.
Woodbridge (Calif.) 70, Desert Pines 59 — Michael Lambert had 17 of his 25 points in the second half as the Warriors downed the Jaguars for seventh place.
Reggie Shaw scored 16 points for Desert Pines, which led 33-32 at the half.
Pierre Jackson added 12 points and Daimar Harris 11 for the Jaguars.
Carson (Calif.) 67, Coronado 63 — Dennis Hardwell had 25 points as the Colts held off the Cougars for ninth place.
Charlie Wakefield led Coronado with 20 points. Brandon Glanz added 10 points for the Cougars.