Black is not a part of Gardena Serra’s school color scheme, but it has a special place for the Cavaliers boys' basketball team as it tries to make its way to a state Division III title.
They have dedicated their postseason to Stephen Autry, the father of Serra guard Vaughn Autry who died just before the Southern Section playoffs began.
The Cavaliers took that dedication to another level Saturday, wearing black uniforms as a tribute to Stephen. They also took their game up a notch, routing Compton Centennial, 74-50, to win the Southern California Regional title at Galen Center and advance to the state final next week against Oakland Bishop O’Dowd.
The uniforms,were a surprise to the players, who didn’t find out about them until just before taking the court. Serra's colors are red, white and blue and the team had never before worn black.
“I was kind of like ‘Man.’ I kind of got emotional because we knew it was for my dad,” said Autry, whose father died last month from congestive heart failure after being diagnosed with leukemia six months ago.
The emotion spilled over to the rest of the team. An inspired Serra, which was out-rebounded by Centennial when they met two weeks ago in the Southern Section Division 3A title game, crashed the boards hard and came away with a 49-24 rebounding advantage.
The Cavaliers (34-2) had 21 offensive rebounds to only seven for Centennial (28-8) and had 20 second-chance points.
“They just outworked us on the boards,” Centennial Coach Vadim Malikin said. “We just didn’t do a good enough job.”
They didn’t do a very good job from the free-throw line, either. Centennial made only eight of 22 attempts.
Serra, meanwhile, had control from the beginning. The Cavaliers never trailed as they opened a 33-22 halftime lead and extended it to 38-22 three minutes into the second half. The Apaches made a run, cutting the lead to 43-35 with just over a minute left in the third, but a 9-2 Serra run to open the fourth quarter gave the Cavaliers a 57-37 lead and they coasted from there.
“I’m really, really excited,” Serra Coach Dwan Hurt said. “Today I had to hold back my emotions because it was 10 years ago today that my mother died. This is a very special moment. I’m caught up in the moment and I’m going to enjoy this for a long time.”
Marqise Lee, a defensive back on the Serra football team that won the Division III state bowl game in the Fall, had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers. Keith Shamburger had 14 points and Autry added 11.
Deonte Burton had 19 points for Centennial, which made only one of nine three-point attempts in the second half.