Verdugo Hills falls in Division V state championship basketball game

Verdugo Hills coach Jared Gibson with the state Division V runner-up trophy discusses 67-49 loss to Athenian.
Verdugo Hills coach Jared Gibson and players with the state Division V runner-up trophy after their 67-49 loss to Athenian. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles TImes)

The bus trip to Northern California started with a stop in Stockton, where Verdugo Hills coach Jared Gibson went to school. His mother made dinner for the Dons' players Thursday night — lasagna, fried chicken, two chocolate cakes and six loaves of bread.

If only the state Division V championship game Friday at Golden 1 Center went as well as the home cooking. The Dons (25-12) struggled from three-point range, making seven of 34, and were beaten by Athenian 67-49 in their first state championship appearance.

Gibson had nothing but praise for a team that won the City Section Division II championship and plays in probably the smallest gym in Southern California.

"I walked into that gym 17 years ago," Gibson said. "1959 was the last league title. These guys are champs."

There are 11 seniors on the Dons' roster. Gibson calls them his "COVID babies," because during the pandemic, he was spending hour after hour on Zoom talking with them instead of training them in 2021.

In his final game, Jabez Agustin made five threes and finished with 15 points. Alexander Martinez had 12 points and Georges Abdulnour added 11 points.

Athenian, which made 15 of 16 free throws, received a standout game from 6-foot-3 senior guard Evan Lucas, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds. He scored nine consecutive points in the second quarter to help the Owls pull away, after leading by as many as 18 points in the first half of a game the Dons never led.

Sign up for the L.A. Times SoCal high school sports newsletter to get scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.