LOS ANGELES -- La Verne Lutheran coach Eric Cooper will be the first to tell you about his team's bumpy season. And, fortunately for him, it's not over.
The 11th-seeded Trojans used a strong second half to upset top-seeded La Cañada, 57-47, Saturday afternoon at Galen Center to advance to next week's CIF State Division III boys' basketball championship in Sacramento. Lutheran outscored La Cañada 35-22 in the second half behind 14 points from forward Grant Jerrett. He finished with 22.
"This was one of the three toughest teams we've faced this year," Cooper said. "You had to think or they could embarrass you."
Lutheran (25-5) turned the ball over leading by four with less than two minutes remaining. The Spartans (30-4) had a three-on-one the other way with a chance to cut the deficit, but C.J. Cooper anticipated a pass under the basket. The Trojans got an easy bucket at the other end.
"If we got that," La Cañada's Mason Holle said, "it could have been a different game."
The momentum had shifted long before that, when Lutheran broke out a box-and-1 zone defense to contain Michael McGlashan. McGlashan and Matt Faber combined for 22 points in the first half as the Spartans led 25-22 heading into the locker room. Together, they were 10-for-16 shooting. McGlashan had only seven points in the second half.
"When coach [Cooper] puts a challenge on my plate," Lutheran guard Bruce English said, "I tend to take it serious."
English was the "one" in box-and-one. He answered the call offensively, too, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the second half. Lutheran beat the third-seeded, second-seeded and top-seeded teams to advance out of the Southern California regional. The fact that La Cañada fans packed both sides of the court made it more daunting. It felt like a true road game for the Trojans -- even if their nickname was painted onto the floor at Galen Center.
"We brought a whole community to its feet," La Cañada coach Tom Hofman said. "For two weeks, that's all they were talking about -- La Cañada basketball."
And for good reason. The Spartans (30-4) had defeated Los Angeles Price for the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA championship two weeks previous. But on Saturday, Lutheran looked like a team on a mission.
"I don't really believe in the seeding system," Cooper said. "All it did was make us prepare to be a road team. We had to win on the road against some very good, talented teams. All that does is helps us."
Blair Angulo covers preps and UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.