Heading into the Division V state championship boys’ basketball game Saturday in Bakersfield, the big decision for La Verne Lutheran is whether to entice The Branson School of Ross into shooting early in the shot clock, or beat the Bulls at their own methodical game.
"That’s the dilemma," Lutheran Coach Eric Cooper said Thursday afternoon. "They like to make about a hundred passes before they shoot. If they get the offensive rebound, they'll pull it out and make another hundred passes."
The Trojans prefer an up-tempo style on both ends of the floor. However, playing at a quick offensive clip is much easier than getting the other team to follow suit. Cooper has seen the Bulls play a couple of times this season and noticed they don’t like being pressured on offense.
If the Trojans should fall behind early, however, they might be forced to play into Branson’s hands.
"We’re going to have to think about how we’re going to deal with that," Cooper said. "Are we going to make them play defense for 30 seconds, or get them to play our style of basketball?"
Branson should be aided by the return of junior guard John Dunn, who was expected to miss the rest of the season because of a stress fracture in his back, but he made a surprise return last Friday in the NorCal Division V final and scored six points in the 62-44 victory against University Prep of San Francisco.
The Bulls also have experience on their side, having reached the state title game for the fifth time in the last six years. Lutheran is making its first state championship appearance.
Cooper said he wasn’t sure if that was an advantage for Branson.
"I’ll tell you after I’ve been there a few more times," he said.
Tip-off at Rabobank Arena is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.