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BOYS BASKETBALL: Serra Falls in Heartbreaker

Santa Teresa mounts 12-point, second-half comeback to stun Padres in CCS Division I final; Serra suffers latest in string of painful big-game defeats.

The Score: Santa Teresa 46, Serra 44.

The Star: Serra High’s Connor McGrath nearly willed his team to the Central Coast Section Division I championship on Saturday night. The senior guard led all players with 20 points and three assists – he either scored or assisted on nine of the Padres’ 14 field goals – in a narrow defeat at Santa Clara University.

The Turning Point: The final possession. Trailing by two points after Santa Teresa’s Spencer Koopmans rolled in the first of two free throws with 23.1 seconds left, second-seeded Serra (21-9) got the ball to McGrath on the perimeter. With about three seconds left, McGrath missed a 3-pointer from the left wing and teammates Henry Caruso and Zack Swinney scrambled in vain for the loose ball on the ground on the left baseline before the final buzzer sounded and No. 4 seed Santa Teresa (22-7) started to celebrate its first CCS title.

The Quote: “You start to feel a little snake-bit at times. … Basketball goes that way. In 2004-06, the balls were rolling our way, and the last few years they haven’t.” – Serra coach Chuck Rapp, on his emotions after suffering the latest in a string of recent heartbreaking losses.

The Quote #2: “In the second half, I guess we got a little lackadaisical, thinking we were going to win. You can’t do that in these types of games. You’ve got to put your pedal to the metal, and we just didn’t do that.” – Padres stalwart senior Connor McGrath, on how his team failed to hold a lead that reached 12 points early in the third quarter.

What’s Next? Serra awaits its seed in the California Interscholastic Federation Northern California Division I playoffs. Both the section champion and runner-up advance to NorCals.

The Bottom Line: The Padres lost a golden opportunity to claim the program’s sixth Central Coast Section title and first in five years. … Serra, which won three straight section titles in the mid-2000’s, has now lost the past two Division I finals by a total of three points. In the last two years, the Padres have also suffered painfully close defeats in the West Catholic Athletic League tournament championship – 57-54 to St. Francis last year and 46-45 to Mitty two weeks ago. … Serra beat Santa Teresa in the 1991 Division I final to claim its first CCS title – and the Saints returned the favor on Saturday night. … After building a 10-point halftime lead, the Padres were outscored 30-18 down the stretch. “I thought dribble penetration in the second half hurt us, especially with No. 3,” said Rapp, referring to Santa Teresa guard Denzel Copeland. … Copeland scored all 12 of his points in the second half, including a pull-up jumper and a pair of free throws on his team’s first two possessions of the fourth quarter to cut Serra’s lead to 36-35. “Come the second half, we knew we had to attack,” Copeland said. … Caruso was a difference-maker off the bench. The Padre sophomore scored 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting and added seven rebounds. … Santa Teresa took its first lead since the opening minutes of the game when Daniel Karnes drilled a 3-pointer from the left baseline to make it 42-39 with 4:01 remaining. …McGrath, who scored all eight of his team’s fourth-quarter points, tied the game at 44 when he hit a floater with 2:07 left. But then Serra missed its final three shots. … Padres senior Dalyn Pacheco hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds but shot 1-for-8 from the floor. … Serra had trouble with Trevor Priest’s athleticism in the early stages. The 6-foot-5 post had 11 points and eight rebounds. … The Padres were dealt a stunning postseason loss by Santa Teresa on the baseball diamond four years ago. The Saints took advantage of Serra’s five-error, five wild-pitch debacle to win 9-7 in the CCS Division I quarterfinals. Then-Serra coach Pete Jensen called that performance “the worst showing I can remember.”

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Santa Teresa 46, Serra 44

ST – 7 9 15 15 – 46

S – 8 18 10 8 – 44

ST: Copeland 4 4-4 12, Priest 5 1-2 11, Karnes 6 2-3 15, Koopmans 1 1-2 3, Gunther 0 5-8 5. Totals: 16 13-18 46.

S: McGrath 6 6-7 20, Barsocchini 2 0-0 6, Leahy 1 0-0 3, Pacheco 1 1-2 3, Regina 1 0-0 2, Caruso 3 4-5 10, Swinney 0 0-1 0. Totals: 14 11-15 44.

3-point goals: ST: Karnes. S: McGrath 2, Barsocchini 2, Leahy.

Records: Santa Teresa 22-7. Serra 21-9.

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