LAKESIDE — A weekend pickup game may have cost the No. 6-ranked Morse High School boys' basketball team an opportunity for a rematch of last year's 3-A final.
Chris Jeter, the Tigers' leading scorer and rebounder, was at Wednesday night's first-round game at El Capitan High, but the 6-foot 10 center but did not play. Jeter's right leg was in a cast after he injured his ankle last weekend.
Consequently, No. 9 El Capitan defeated Morse, 52-49, and advanced to the San Diego Section 3-A semifinals against Poway, last season's champion.
And in the final minutes, it was a center, 6-9 Matt Schmidt, who caused the Tigers' downfall.
Schmidt, who sat out much of the second half after getting his fourth foul with 4:38 left in the third quarter, tied the game, 43-43, with a three-point play.
Aaron Johnson, who had 22 points, hit a 12-footer with 2:26 left put the Vaqueros (19-4) ahead, but Jemul Nutt, who had 11, tied the game, 45-45, the next time down the floor. Then Schmidt went to work.
Schmidt made a two-footer that put El Cap ahead, 47-45, with 1:56 to play.
Barney Laffitte a 6-8 forward, replacing Jeter in the pivot, hit a turn-around four-footer with 48 seconds remaining to tie it, 47-47. But Morse made a crucial mistake with 39 seconds left.
Morse pressured the ball up the court and had guard Geoff Adams trapped, but Wille Davis reached in and fouled Adams, who made one of two.
The Tigers did not try to foul El Capitan, which had made 11 of 23 free throws. Then with 20 seconds left, Schmidt sealed the victory, 50-47, almost duplicating his previous shot.
Schmidt, who finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds in about 2 1/2 quarters, said Jeter's absence made a difference.
"I didn't know about it until (Jeter) walked in with a cast on," Schmidt said. "I think they thought we'd let up because we knew he was missing. But we didn't."
Laffitte tried his best to fill replace Jeter, but couldn't do it alone. Laffitte scored 19 points and had 17 rebounds.
"I tried to be a combo of both," Laffitte said. "We have a lot of young guys on the team, and when you're missing your leading scorer and rebounder, it's tough to play as well."
Morse looked like a young team in the first half when El Capitan's 1-3-1 half-court trap caused the Tigers to commit 15 turnovers and hit only 10 of 27 field goals.
El Capitan Coach Ross Furrow said he was happy to have a chance to face Poway, but he might not have had that opportunity had Jeter played.
"(Jeter's absence) hurt them," Furrow said, "but how much I don't know. We shot horribly (19-47), but I'm just glad we won. Laffitte played a great game, but he couldn't make up for Jeter.
"Matt did a hell of a job for us. It was obvious we weren't as good a team when he wasn't on the floor. It's going to take a super effort to beat Poway."