Pierce College played perhaps its most impressive game of the season Saturday, but all it did was prevent a rout as L. A. Trade Tech rallied from a six-point deficit late in the game to beat Pierce, 69-67, in the final preseason game for both teams.
With less than 30 seconds left and Pierce trailing, 65-64, the Beavers intercepted an inbounds pass and James Scott, who was fouled, hit two free throws.
Pierce's Tony Thomas sank a free throw on the end of a three-point play to again tie the game, 67-67, but with seven seconds left, Jeffery Martin drove the lane and sank a shot from six feet to give Trade Tech the win.
A Pierce win would have been one of the college's biggest victories in recent memory. But despite the loss, which dropped Pierce to 4-11 with conference play slated to begin in four days, Pierce Coach Larry Lessett hasn't lost hope.
"I think we can compete for the state championship," Lessett said. "I hope the players think we can."
Pierce seems to have improved greatly since the start of its dismal preseason. Trade Tech went into Saturday's game with a 10-7 record, including a win over Pierce earlier in the season.
"Pierce played very well tonight," Trade Tech Coach Leroy Porter said. "We beat them earlier this season by 16 points in a tournament, and this team now looks like a whole different team."
Lessett said he was disappointed because the Brahmas played well, but not for the entire game. Four Pierce players scored in double figures. The defense, though unable to stop the Beavers' Mike Brown, shut down a potent Trade Tech inside game that featured brothers Jesse and Jerome Spinner. Jesse is 6-10, Jerome 6-9.
Brown, a 6-3 freshman from Fairfax High, turned the outside into a free-fire zone, seemingly hitting at will from anywhere on the court. Brown was the game's leading scorer with 20 points.
"People ask me how my team is doing," Porter said. "And I say, 'You mean, how is Mike Brown doing?' "
Just fine, thank you, as is James Scott, who scored 15 for the Beavers, and Tony Johnson, who had 14.
Pierce's Cedric Purry, the highly touted freshman from Long Beach Poly, is improving rapidly--just in time for conference play. Purry had a team-high 14 points and was a crucial weapon in stopping the Beavers inside.
"He made the press work," Lessett said.
Asked if he was ready to start Metropolitan Conference play, Lessett said, "We don't have any choice. Whatever happens is going to happen. But none of the games we have played so far will have any bearing on league. We have a clean slate now and the guys are ready."
Freshman Kent Young scored 13 points for Pierce, and teammates Duane Newton and Andy Jercha each had 11. Forward Tony Thomas scored nine for the Brahmas, while Tony Goodall had four and Eric Dickson came off the bench to add five.
Pierce had been down by as many as seven points in the first half, but came back on the strength of a Jercha's three-point play. Thomas connected on a 12-foot jumper and Pierce tied the Beavers, 17-17.
L. A. TRADE TECH--Brown 20; Scott 15; Johnson 14; Martin 12; J. Spinner 6; Tillman 2.
PIERCE--Purry 14; Young 13; Jercha 11; Newton 11; Thomas 9; Dickson 5; Goodall 4.