Sometimes, even Steve deLaveaga is not enough.
DeLaveaga poured in a strangely insignificant 37 points--his eighth 30-plus game this season--Saturday night against visiting Southern California College. But the Kingsmen never led and were seldom even within striking distance.
DeLaveaga, a 6-4 junior guard, spent the evening hurriedly tossing in shots from all over the floor, including a soft turnaround jumper three minutes into the second half that placed him third on the CLU career scoring list.
But Cal Lutheran lost to the Vanguards for the second time this season, this time 94-87, and dropped into a three-way tie for first in the Golden State Athletic Conference. Cal Lutheran (11-11, 6-2 in conference play) shares the top spot with Southern California and Azusa Pacific with six games to play.
Southern California (11-11, 6-2) ripped off 13 points in a row to open the game and immediately made the king of the Kingsmen play catch up. DeLaveaga started slowly, missing his first five shots.
"That was my fault," deLaveaga said of Southern California's quick start. "We said we didn't want to get into a run-and-shoot game with them. But being a leader, I want to bang the inside all the time.
"It's kind of like 'Be a hero or be a zero thing.' In a day, I'll be all right."
DeLaveaga, who with 1,554 points is only four points shy of becoming the school's No. 2 career scorer, finally found the range and finished the first half with 17 points. But Cal Lutheran trailed, 49-39.
"He's going to get his points," Southern California Coach Bill Reynolds said. "All we did is try to contain him. How do you say that Phil Hill did a good job when deLaveaga had 37 points?"
You let Hill explain it.
"My assignment was just to stick with him," said Hill, who finished with one foul and 10 points. "We threw a lot of picks at him. But the big start we had was what did it. Turned out we needed it."
In the second half, DeLaveaga scored 20 points, including two three-point shots, and forward James Faulk chipped in with 12 of his 18 points. DeLaveaga's foul shot with 34 seconds to play pulled Cal Lutheran to within 88-85, the tightest margin since 3-0.
But Southern California finished strongly. Mike Lightfoot, who had 20 points, slammed home a breakaway dunk and Todd Dixon, who led the Vanguards with 27 points, added a layup. Center Jeff Bickmore added two free throws and forced the Kingsmen to attempt hurried shots.
Cal Lutheran never scored on more than two consecutive possessions or had a run of more than five points.
"Their start really put us in a bad spot," Cal Lutheran Coach Larry Lopez said. "That's the first time that happened to us really early this year. They're so quick and our transition defense was the problem." Said Reynolds: "I don't know if we disrupted them. I think that Cal Lutheran, having not been in the position of first place this late in the season, might have been a little tight."
Cal Lutheran center Michael Demeter added 19 points and 17 rebounds.