If JSerra girls' basketball players are walking around campus on Wednesday and telling their friends "Wait 'til next year," believe them.
If you see them at the In-N-Out and they say, "We'll be back," believe them.
The fourth-seeded Lions were eliminated from the Southern California Regional semifinals on Tuesday night, beaten in the second half of the fourth quarter on a hostile floor against a more experienced team.
But the 52-43 setback to top-seeded Gardena Serra was to be expected in the Division IV semifinal; Serra also beat JSerra in the Southern Section Division 4AA semifinal, 48-37.
The Lions—younger and with less big game experience than their opponent—finish the season 24-8 after finishing second to Mater Dei in the Trinity League.
Over the last 22 games, only three teams have beaten JSerra: L.A. Windward (No. 1 in the state, No. 2 in the nation) and Mater Dei (No. 2 in the state, No. 4 in the nation), who are playing each other Saturday in the Regional final of the Open Division; and Serra (No. 15 in the state).
Serra will play in the Regional final Saturday, 6 p.m. at Colony High in Ontario against sixth-seeded Playa del Rey St. Bernard, a 75-51 winner over second-seeded Santa Monica St. Monica.
JSerra defeated St. Bernard, 59-51, on Jan. 12.
In the game Tuesday, JSerra trailed by a point midway through the four quarter when back-to-back three-point baskets gave Serra the separation it needed to close out the game. Two of Serra's top three scorers were seniors, Siera Thompson and Deandrea Toler, who scored 18 and 11, respectively.
Toler's three-point basket from beyond halfcourt gave Serra the lead going into the fourth quarter, 33-31.
With only one senior on the team, August Touchard, much of JSerra's strength is in its youth. Touchard scored a team-high 15. She had scored 18 against Serra in their last game.
Sophomore Coco Miller, who had averaged 21 points in the playoffs, was limited to nine points, five fewer than the last meeting against the Cavaliers.
Courtney Vaccher's six points were her lowest output since Dec. 18, and only the second time in 19 games she had scored fewer than 11.
The starting five for JSerra includes two sophomores and two juniors.
In Division I
Trinity League champion Mater Dei advanced in both the boys' and girls' Open Division to the finals.
Mater Dei girls defeated Corona Santiago, 78-69, to set up a showdown with Windward in the closest thing to a national championship game. In the Maxpreps' computer-based Freeman Ratings, Mater Dei is No. 4 in the nation and Windward is No. 2. Santiago is No. 5. Game time is Saturday, 6 p.m., at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario.
Mater Dei boys, defeated by Etiwanda in the Southern Section finals, earned a rematch with an 83-63 victory over Long Beach Poly. In the same Freeman Ratings, Etiwanda is ranked No. 2 in the nation and Mater Dei is No. 3.
Etiwanda defeated Westchester, 56-46.
The winners of the regional finals will play for the state championship on March 23.