SAN DIEGO — Never mind what his coach had said during a timeout moments earlier, Oceanside High School's Junior Seau knew the time was right to take a gamble.
With two seconds left on the clock, and his team leading by two points, the sophomore forward jumped out and blocked George Byrnd's short jumper to preserve a 42-40 Pirate victory over second-seeded Chula Vista in a 2-A boys basketball semifinal Saturday night at Serra.
Oceanside (18-6), the defending 2-A champions, will face Mission Bay (19-5) in the final Wednesday at the Sports Arena. Chula Vista, the Metro-South Bay champions, finished 19-7.
"That's a sophomore mentality for you," Oceanside Coach Bill Christopher said. "If they throw the ball in, we go to overtime. But if Junior picks up a foul, a three-point play could have beaten us."
Said Seau: "I knew I had the height advantage, so I just went for it. Coach told us not to foul during the timeout, but it was time to take a risk."
Although Seau's play sealed the game, Oceanside may actually have won the game in the first half.
The Pirates played a 2-3 zone defense that limited the Spartans' top scorer Darnell Woods to just one basket before halftime.
Meanwhile, Oceanside controlled the ball on offense, working it inside for easy baskets that helped stake the sixth-seeded Avocado League runner-up to a 23-13 halftime lead.
"We did such a great job in the first half," Christopher said. "That staked us to just a big enough lead to be able to hold on. I would have to credit most of it to our defense."
In the second half, Woods led spirited Chula Vista rally.
"We bottled him up well in the first half, but he just became more active and started to take over," Christopher said.
Woods scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to give Chula Vista its largest lead, 35-31, with 4:48 remaining.
However, the Pirates switched to a man-to-man defense and returned to their patient offense to regain control. Seau hit two free throws and scored off a rebound to tie, 35-35, with 4:25 remaining.
After Henry Quintero tapped in a missed shot to give the Pirates a 37-35 lead, Oceanside went to a spread offense to widen the margin.
Tim Prim scored on a driving layin, and Quintero hit from the side to boost the lead to 41-36 with 1:17 to go.
But Woods, who led Chula Vista with 19, and Brynd brought Chula Vista within 42-40 on a pair of jumpers in the final minute.
After Marc Golston missed the front end of a one-and-one, Chula Vista had a chance to tie in the final 13 seconds. But Bay Dean missed a free-throw line jumper and, after a mad scramble, Brynd's shot was rejected by Seau.