After watching Serra High's basketball team dominate St. Monica, 87-65, Wednesday night at home, it was hard to believe the result was the reverse when the teams met last month.
Obviously, the fear of missing the CIF playoffs has a positive effect on the Cavaliers.
"That's one of our inspirations," said Serra Coach George McDaniel, whose team moved into a three-way tie with St. Monica and Pius X for third place in the Camino Real League.
"I told the players we had to win two games this week. Now it's down to one."
Serra (10-11 overall, 4-5 in league) can clinch the league's third and final berth in the 5-A Division playoffs on Friday night with a win over Pius X and a St. Monica loss to powerful St. Anthony.
Cavalier forward James Moses is counting on that happening. The 6-5 senior led all scorers with 29 points, four less than his season average.
"We feel pretty confident we can beat Pius X," Moses said. "The team wants to go to the playoffs."
Moses admitted that Serra almost blew its playoff chances on Jan. 22 in an 87-73 loss at St. Monica.
"That hurt us," he said. "We didn't have our heads on right. We should have won that game, but we looked too far ahead."
There was no looking ahead Wednesday night. Faced with a must-win situation, the Cavaliers opened a 13-3 lead in the first five minutes and were never threatened.
Serra's full-court press forced numerous turnovers, and the Cavaliers parlayed their superior quickness into many uncontested baskets.
Guards Deon Figures and Alex Mendenhall supported Moses with 15 and 11 points.
"We had better defense and better team unity tonight," McDaniel said. "I'm learning more about this team every game."
The Cavaliers made things easy on their coach this time.
After the teams played even in the second quarter, Serra opened the second half with a 10-2 spurt to take a 44-26 lead. Moses and forward Eric Carpenter each had four points during the streak.
From there, St. Monica never got closer than 12 points.
Guards Jason Joe and Chris Cotton led the Mariners with 21 points each. Cotton scored mostly from the outside, hitting five three-point shots.
St. Bernard 76, St. Paul 74--Reserve guard Troy Wade scored four points in the last 40 seconds at St. Bernard to lift the Vikings (17-7, 5-4) into a third-place tie with St. Paul in the Angelus League.
Wade stole the ball at half court and scored a layup with 40 seconds left to break a 72-72 tie and hit two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to give St. Bernard a 76-72 lead.
Forwards Eric Nelson and Juno Armstrong led the Vikings 18 and 16 points, while Wade added 13.
St. Bernard can clinch a CIF 5-A playoff berth Friday night by beating last-place Bishop Montgomery at home if St. Paul loses at Bishop Amat.
Center Greg Willig led St. Paul with 21 points and guard John Guerrero added 19, including four three-point shots. Guerrero ended the first quarter with a basket from half court.