Kurt Davis never had a chance.
The Compton Centennial senior was assigned the unenviable task of trying to slow down Keith Shamburger during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Southern Section Division 3A title game at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Problem was Shamburger was seemingly unstoppable.
The 6-foot senior point guard for Gardena Serra used a a pair of crossover dribbles to free up some additional space between him Davis. A head-and-shoulders fake followed and froze his defender. Then, Shamburger stepped back and knocked down a fade away jumper that touched nothing but net.
“That’s my favorite move and it worked,’’ Shamburger said.
Everything was working for him in the Cavaliers’ 62-58 victory over the Apaches. All told, Shamburger played all 32 minutes and finished with 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals to guide Serra (30-2) to the championship.
In the waning moments, Shamburger drove to the basket, and with the defense collapsing around him, he found Marquis Lee cutting to the basket for a layup to give the Cavaliers a 61-58 lead with :25 left in the fourth quarter.
Fittingly, Shamburger dribbled the ball across half court as time expired before being heading to the Serra sidelines and the celebration.
The Cavaliers weren’t satisfied with a two-point lead at halftime. They wanted more and came out and took more in the third quarter.
Shamburger hit a three-pointer, and shortly thereafter, Craig Carter had back-to-back buckets. George Farmer converted a layup and Vaughn Autry knocked down a jumper to extend the Serra lead to 44-34 with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter.
Centennial star Deonte Burton didn‘t have his best game, unfortunately. The 6-foot-1 senior guard was resilient though and two baskets gave the Apaches (25-6) a glimmer of hope as they headed into the fourth quarter trailing 46-44.
Burton ended up with 15 points, on four-for-13 shooting from the field. Teammate Kevin Smith, however, kept Centennial close throughout. He finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds and his layup to cut the Serra lead to 59-58 with less than a minute left.
Shamburger was having no part of a comeback, though.
“We worked to hard to just give up,’’ he said. “We wanted this one bad, more than they did. I wasn’t going to let my teammates down.’’
Burton got off to a slow start. It took him nearly five minutes to score his first points of the game, on a three-pointer at 3:19. Minutes later, he knocked down a pair of free-throws for the Apaches, who trailed 14-12 with :59 left in the first quarter.
Autry, Serra’s standout, struggled as well. The senior guard managed one basket in the first quarter, also on a three-pointer, before heading to the bench with his second foul with 17 seconds left in the first quarter .
Shamburger picked up the slack for the Cavaliers. He scored six points in the first quarter, highlighted by a pull-jumper over Burton just before the buzzer sounded to give Serra an 18-12 lead at the end of one.
Centennial came out with a sense of urgency in the second quarter. Good defense led to better offense for the Apaches as Kurt Davis converted a layup, Kevin Smith got loose underneath for a two-handed dunk and Harrison Hawkins scored a pair of baskets.
Next thing you know, Centennial had a 28-24 advantage with 1:39 left before the break.
The Cavaliers answered with a run of their own. Lee made a basket inside. Autry re-entered the game and made an immediate impact, scoring on a layup just before intermission as Serra took a 30-28 lead at the break.