Los Angeles Preps: John Osorno
March, 16, 2011
By Sean Ceglinsky | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Courtesy of Dave KeeferKevin Payne, left, lost his father to a car accident in September, and Xavier Jones, right, suffered a heart attack in November and had to be revived by coaches through CPR. Both look to lead La Verne Lutheran to a berth in the state finals.
LA VERNE -- In most cases, a tragedy, particularly a loss of life, tends to have a profound impact on the psyche of a high school sports program.
Sometimes the extenuating circumstances can cause strife so severe the players and coaches, often times, find it difficult to overcome.
The La Verne Lutheran boys’ basketball team has been a resilient bunch. It's a group that has recently dealt with three deaths to persons closely associated to the program and a close call with regard to another, a teammate no less.
Through it all, the players and coaches have persevered and are now on the verge of reaching a goal that many observers thought unattainable a couple of months ago.
A victory over La Canada (30-3) in Saturday’s Southern California Regional playoffs at USC’s Galen Center will secure the Trojans (25-5) an improbable Division III title and enable them to advance to the state finals on March 25 and 26 at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
“We have had some ups and downs so far, but our kids have stuck it out and fought through adversity,’’ La Verne Lutheran coach Eric Cooper Sr. said.
Perhaps Kevin Payne and Xavier Jones have been involved in the most traumatic experiences, given that each senior lost a close family member.
Payne’s father, Kevin Payne Sr., was killed in an automobile accident in early September. The grief left a lasting impression on the entire program.