The Verbum Dei Eagles waltzed their way into the Southern Regional Division IV championship game by keeping their playoff opponents on the run.
Coach Mike Kearney's vaunted full-court press, a staple in Verbum Dei's successful regular season, continues to pay dividends in the postseason.
Verbum Dei, the Southern Section Division IV champions, forced 29 turnovers Thursday in a 103-76 blowout over the St. Paul Swordsmen of Santa Fe Springs in a Division IV semifinal game at Compton College.
"The guys took it to 'em," said Kearney. "The press is what we have been doing all year. It has been good enough so far."
Verbum Dei's trapping defense worked so well--St. Paul committed 25 turnovers during the first three quarters--that Kearney was able to pull his starting five for most of the fourth quarter.
Said Kearney: "There is still room for improvement on defense, but when our press is working it eventually gets to people."
St. Paul stayed close early in the game by breaking the press and finding spot-up shooters to hit three-point shots. The Swordsmen's last four baskets of the first quarter were all three-pointers--the last of which by Sergio Ramos cut the Eagles' lead to 19-16.
"(Three-pointers) kept us in the game in the first quarter but when we started missing, Verbum Dei had three-on-one fast-breaks," St. Paul assistant coach Randy Castilla said. "Verbum Dei's press was really intense ... they were unstoppable on the open floor."
Point guard Jamaal Cobbs benefited most, gathering six steals to score 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half.
Guard Andre Miller, who chipped in 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor, scored 10 in the second quarter.
St. Paul forward Jason Reynolds scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Swordsmen.