Los Angeles Preps: Vaughn Autry

Pete Fox of 710 ESPN and Mark LeCair of ESPN Bakersfield spent all day Saturday taking in the second day of the CIF State Basketball championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. Southern California teams won three of the six titles decided that day, including the inspirational story of Gardena Serra, which won a title in memory of Stephen Autry, who died before the playoffs and before he could see his son Vaughn and the Cavaliers make their run. Here are interviews with Autry, other Serra teammates and coach Dwan Hurt.

In Division I, the Long Beach Poly girls' team fell short in its quest for five consecutive state titles and senior Brittany Wilson tries to explain, while player of the game Kareem Jamar for the Westchester boys discusses his team's achievement of back-to-back state titles.

LA South:
Serra's kept promise is something extra

March, 27, 2010
BAKERSFIELD – The poetic justice of the moment was almost indescribable. Vaughn Autry stood at the free-throw line with a chance to put the game out of reach. He had already blown one free throw on a night when his coach thought he got caught up in the emotion of it all.

“I saw my dad sitting in a chair to the left of me and felt his presence,” Autry said.

And then he made it, a simple basket that gave Gardena Serra an insurmountable four-point lead and a State Division III championship. Serra's 63-59 overtime victory over Oakland Bishop O'Dowd had a little of everything, including a kept promise.

Autry's father, Stephen Autry, died from congestive heart failure related to leukemia, the night before Serra was named the top-seeded team in the Southern Section playoffs. The Cavaliers promised to play in Stephen Autry's memory, and they pulled through wearing the same black tribute uniforms they wore for the first time last week.

Keith Shamburger scored 14 and Bene Benwikere scored 12 for Serra. Autry scored nine.

In a physical, emotional matchup, there were huge baskets from throughout the lineup that allowed Serra (34-2) to win state titles in football and basketball.

“They all were important,” coach Dwan Hurt said of Serra' s big moments as the game seemed slipping away against a taller opponent. “Each kid stopped up and hit big shots.”

Serra began the fourth quarter with a 48-38 lead, but O'Dowd (30-4) scored the first six points when George Farmer scored a huge three-pointer – his only points. Marqis Lee followed his own miss to get a rebound to make it 54-47 with 3:55 remaining in regulation, but O'Dowd finished with a 7-0 run.

With momentum clearly in O'Dowd's favor, Craig Carter opened the four-minute overtime with a three-point basket from the corner. After trading free throws, Lee made a steal and finger-rolled a layup for a 60-55 advantage with 1:46 left. Ronnie Stevens put back a rebound after Shamburger missed free throws for a 62-59 advantage with 18 seconds remaining.

“Coach reminded me of what we were playing for,” Stevens said of the biggest shot of his career.

Then, Autry's moment.

“This is the biggest thing I ever experienced in my life,” Autry said. “To lose my dad, I had this to cheer me up. I have 14 brothers, two sisters and a lot of uncles on this team. I felt, like, the presence of my father, the presence of God, because without God we wouldn't be here.”

Autry had told the coach before his death he would be with the team in Bakersfield, and if there was divine intervention, Hurt was sure that Stephen Autry had a hand in it with 5.5 seconds left in regulation.

O'Dowd's Jordan Barton had just made a free throw to tie. After a timeout by Serra, but before Barton could take what might have been a game-winning free throw, Richard Longrus was whistled for a lane violation. Possession, Serra.

And the game, too.

LA South:
Serra shooting poorly but leads at halftime

March, 27, 2010
BAKERSFIELD -- It's very competitive at halftime of the boys' Division III championship, and Gardena Serra is holding on to a 28-24 lead over Oakland Bishop O'Dowd despite shooting only 27 percent from the field.

After Serra opened a 22-11 lead on the strength of three-point baskets by Keith Shamburger, Vaughn Autry and Steven Archibald, O'Dowd rallied to within three pionts, 22-19.

But Bene Benwikere's dunk of an errant three-poiner and subsequent free throw, and Steven Hester's three-point basket, extended the lead back to nine points, 28-19

Archibald has nine points for Serra, and Autry has eight.
Stephen Autry promised Gardena Serra coach Dwan Hurt that if the Cavaliers made it to the state finals in Bakersfield, he’d be there to cheer on the team.

Unfortunately, just before the playoffs began, Autry, the father of Serra guard Vaughn Autry, died after complications from leukemia led to heart failure.

Serra is going to Bakersfield, representing Southern California in the Division III title game against Oakland Bishop O’Dowd, and Hurt says he believes Stephen Autry will be there in some form or another.

“He told me he’d be there and I know for sure he’ll be there,” said Hurt, who had his team dress in black uniforms for the Southern California final as a tribute to Autry. “We’re going to see our friend and we’re going to try to win it for him.”

The Cavaliers (34-2) are also trying to make history. A victory would make the school the first to win state titles in football and basketball in the same school year. Serra won the Divison III football title in December.

“I’m a person who likes to go get it,” said forward George Farmer, one of three Cavaliers players who were on the football team. “You saw us go get it in football and we’re going to go get it in basketball. It’s just the desire and the will to win.”

Bishop O’Dowd (30-3) is on a 22-game win streak and is led by 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Brandon Ashley so if Serra is to win its first state title since 1993, the Cavaliers will have to stop him.

O’Dowd lost to Woodland Hills Taft, 53-46, and Price, 62-49, in back-to-back games in late December. Serra lost to Taft, 71-64 on Jan. 30 and defeated Price, 78-75 on Jan. 16.

LA South: Video, Serra-Centennial reaction

March, 20, 2010
After losing 74-50 to Serra in Saturday's Division-III Regional final, Compton Centennial coach Vadim Malikin didn't shy away from revealing the reason he felt his Apaches lost — poor shooting. Centennial shot just 39 percent for the game. Malikin also lamented the Apaches' 36 percent free-throw shooting for the game:

Meanwhile, Serra coach Dwan Hurt said the Apaches' game plan was simply to do their best to slow down Centennial stars Kevin Smith and Deonte Burton — and they were successful. Smith and Burton combined to make just nine of 22 shots for a total of 25 points. Hurt also saw his floor leader, Keith Shamburger, get doubled early and often Saturday. But Hurt said he was impressed by Shamburger's willingness to distribute the ball:

Serra guard Vaughn Autry's father, Stephen, died last month at 42, just before the start of postseason play. The senior, a Montana signee, discussed how his late father affects his play on and off the court and how an assistant coach's idea to use black jerseys during the Cavaliers' victory proved emotional:

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.

LA South & Orange County:
Serra fights through tragedy to win

March, 13, 2010
TORRANCE -- They play for him, Stephen Autry. His memory lives on.

Right around this time last month, Autry, father of Vaughn Autry, a senior on the Gardena Serra boys’ basketball team, died suddenly of congestive heart failure at 42. As one can imagine, the tragedy came as a shock to everyone closely associated with the Cavaliers, both on and off the court.

There was a period of grieving, of course. How could there not be? Shortly thereafter, resolve became the top priority for Serra. Resolve to play with heavy hearts and honor an individual who was such an integral part of the program.

“Stephen Autry would’ve been proud of the kids tonight,’’ Serra coach Dwan Hurt said after Saturday’s Southern California Regional playoff game in which the Cavaliers rallied from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat Huntington Beach Ocean View, 50-45, in a Division III semifinal at El Camino College.

“He was a father figure to most of them," Hurt added. “Stephen was around these guys all the time. It didn‘t matter if it was a practice, a game, or just at his home where everyone of the players was always welcomed.’’

Ocean View (29-5) put a scare into the top-seeded Cavaliers (32-2), jumping out to a 41-34 lead at the end of three quarters of back-and-forth play.

The fact the Seahawks were able to keep things close is even more impressive when considering one of their top players, Avery Johnson, went down because of an ankle injury early in the first quarter and did not return.

Anthony Brown picked up the scoring slack. The Stanford-bound senior guard scored 12 of his team-high 17 points in the first half. Ultimately, his efforts came up short though.

Keith Shamburger, Marquise Lee and Craig Carter made countless big baskets down the stretch, none bigger than Carter’s three-pointer to give Serra a three-point advantage with 40 seconds left.

“We wanted to win this game for Big Poppa, that’s what everyone called my dad,’’ said Autry, who nearly played the entire game and finished with five points. “We’re always thinking about him. Most of us have his intitials on our shoes and socks. He was always there for us. We're still there for him.’’

Lee finished with 16 points, Shamburger had 12 and Carter ended up with nine points for the Cavaliers, who took a 32-26 lead at the half.

“He was a second father to me,’’ Shamburger said of Stephen Autry. “I miss talking to him. He meant a lot to me, a lot to this team. He was our No. 1 supporter. We won this game for him. We know he was watching over us.’’

LA South & Orange County:
Ocean View can expect an uphill battle

March, 13, 2010
TORRANCE -- One of the two players the Huntington Beach Ocean View boys’ basketball team could not afford to lose, Avery Johnson, went down with an injury during the first quarter of Saturday’s Southern California Regional playoff game at El Camino College.

Luckily for the Seahawks, the other valuable piece of the puzzle, Anthony Brown, is doing just fine and keeping things close. The senior guard scored 12 points in the first half for an Ocean View unit that trails top-seeded Gardena Serra, 32-26, at the break in a Division III semifinal game.

Trouble is, it doesn’t appear as if Johnson is going to return. While Brown is playing well, it's unlikely he'll be able to win this game himself.

Serra has received contributions from seemingly everyone, starters and reserves alike. Vaughn Autry and Keith Shamburger have combined for 10 points. Marquise Lee came off the bench for the Cavaliers and played particularly well, scoring eight of his 12 points in the second quarter.

LA South:
Centennial has no answer for Shamburger

March, 6, 2010
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.
And so it begins, March Madness, at the high school level.

Fans of boys’ basketball, regardless of whether it’s diehard or causal, we highly recommend that you head down to the Honda Center at some point Saturday and sneak in a game, or two, of the Southern Section championships taking place in Anaheim.

All told, six title games will take place at the venue over the course of the day. The early session, in particular, has some interesting matchups. Plenty will be at stake, namely a championship trophy, the one piece of hardware everyone covets.

That said, let’s take a look at who’s who and what to expect.


For those up at the crack of dawn, Gardena Serra (29-2) and Compton Centennial (25-5) are set to tip-off at 9 a.m. The showdown promises to be an entertaining affair, worth waking up a tad bit early for. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to see Deonte Burton. The 6-foot-1 senior for the Apaches is as dynamic as they come, a tremendous scorer who’s considered one of the West Coast’s top unsigned prospects. Serra is no slouch and counters with the talented backcourt tandem of Vaughn Autry and Keith Shamburger. The guard play figures to be the difference in this one.


Shortly thereafter, Murrieta Valley (26-4) and Compton (18-12) take the court, scheduled for 10:45 a.m. The Knighthawks have made a rather remarkable run to the finals, upsetting top-seeded Summit and fourth-seeded Alta Loma en route to the championship game. It doesn’t appear as if anyone can stop them. The Tarbabes would like to think otherwise. Cliff Sims Jr. & Co. come in with plenty of confidence after shocking second-seeded Edison in the semifinals. When all is said and done, one of these Cinderella teams is going to realize its dreams.


No one in Southern California is hotter than top-seeded Rialto Eisenhower (27-5), which enters its 12:30 p.m. game against Pasadena (24-6) with 18 consecutive victories. Picking your poison against the Eagles is tricky given the fact that they have several players capable of scoring in double digits. Focusing attention on any one individual could prove costly. For the Bulldogs to remain close, Steven Adams will have to play a prominent role. Make no mistake, all signs point to the 6-foot-9, 230- pound post player being capable. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.


Santa Monica (24-6) is another one of those teams that was supposed to be on the outside looking in at this stage. The eighth-seeded Vikings didn’t stand much of a chance against fourth-seeded Colony or top-seeded Chino Hills. But low and behold, here they are, in the 2:15 p.m. championship game against Leuzinger (23-6). Amir Garrett might be an underclassman, but the 6-foot-6 junior certainly doesn’t play like he has limited experience at the varsity level. If he approaches his averages, 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, the Olympians should take home the title.