GLENDORA -- Askia Booker had to maintain his poise. What teammates see, teammates do -- that's what he has learned as Price's leader.
He couldn't show any sign of weakness, especially after La Verne Lutheran had stormed back with a furious 23-4 run. The Colorado-bound guard sank four free throws in the final two minutes to help top-seeded Price hold off No. 4-seeded Lutheran, 63-58, Friday night at Citrus College. Price advanced to next week's CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA championship game.
"I'm the leader of this team, so I can't let my teammates see that I'm down," said Booker, who scored 15 of his team-high 20 points in the second half.
Price (22-6) had built a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter. It seemed like the Knights were going to top their 15-point win over Lutheran (21-5) from earlier this season. The snooze fest was on.
But Lutheran junior forward Grant Jerrett woke up the crowd with one left hook after another. He scored 18 of his game-high 26 points following the break.
"He was huge," Lutheran coach Eric Cooper said. "When he plays like that, there's no question marks about what we can do. He got rid of the fear, the fear of what's going to happen if [Price's] Norvel (Pelle) blocks his shot. He just played basketball."
You couldn't blame Jerrett for being a little hesitant against Pelle, a senior who will play at St. John's next season. Pelle had dominated the previous matchup, scoring 20 points and earning California Elite Showcase MVP honors. But Jerrett, who is committed to Arizona, held him to only 10 points Friday. Cameron Osorno had 15 for Lutheran, Kenny Green had 13 for Price.
Lutheran wasn't completely healthy when the teams met Jan. 22 at the full-day event held at University of La Verne. Lynch acknowledged it and knew things would be tougher the second time around.
It took an entire half for the tough to come out. Something clicked -- perhaps Jerrett and Co. realized that Lutheran, like Price, won a state title last year. Jerrett's driving lay in made it 55-53 Price with 2:10 to go.
The Trojans had the momentum until Booker was fouled on consecutive possessions. All eyes on him, all net on his attempts.
"He's a senior, he's going to the University of Colorado," Price coach Michael Lynch said. "He's supposed to knock those down."
That's what leaders do.