After going winless last season in league play, Harvard High reversed form and advanced to the semifinals of the Southern Section 1-A playoffs. But the Saracens' season ended there Tuesday with a 79-55 loss to defending champion Crossroads at Santa Monica High.
"Our players played with a lot of heart, they didn't give up till the end," Harvard Coach Greg Hilliard said. "They were too quick for us and they have a lot of depth."
After trailing by as many as 24 points in the third quarter, Harvard (18-6) made a limited run at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. Charles Patton sank two free throws to bring Harvard to 56-43 with 6:54 left. From there, Crossroads made its free throws, while the Saracens did not.
"That was our only chance, that we'd make ours and they'd miss theirs. Instead it was the other way around," Hilliard said.
Harvard wasted an opportunity in the fourth quarter, missing 6 of 7 free throws. With the win, Crossroads (22-5) advances to a championship game for the sixth straight year, this time against Whittier Christian, which defeated Chadwick on Tuesday, 76-55.
Ahead by 15 with four minutes left in the third quarter, Crossroads sank 11 straight free throws to take a 73-47 lead. Crossroads scored two more points before Mike Lowe made a layup for Harvard with 1:42 to play to make it 75-49.
After trailing at halftime, 53-37, Harvard scored the first six points in the second half. But Matt Bailey then drove the lane for a layup to extend Crossroads' lead to 58-43 with six minutes left in the third quarter, prompting Harvard to call a timeout. It didn't help. Crossroads scored four of the next six points, and Harvard's season was soon history.
Senior Steve Green finished his Harvard playing career with 15 points. Junior Dan Saferstein added 10 points.
Before the game, Hilliard said it was important for his team to maintain a deliberate tempo, but the Saracens were unable to slow Crossroads.
Center Matt Bailey led Crossroads with 25 points and teammate Mike Arnold added 17 with 11 coming in the second half.
The Roadrunners jumped out to a 12-0 lead before Green hit a jumper with 4:31 left in the first quarter.
"For a while I wondered when we would get a hoop," Hilliard said. "We've started slow in all our playoff games but were able to come back."
Harvard, which moved to the Santa Fe League after going 0-10 in the Pioneer League last season, lost by nearly 50 points to Crossroads last season.
"We had lost for several years in a row, but this year we've matured a lot," he said. "With seven seniors we won a lot of games we would have lost last year."