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LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Ahead of Saturday's Division II City title game against Van Nuys, LACES head coach David Trujeque told Donovan Cornelius that he believed in the sophomore.

"We wouldn’t be here without you," Trujeque said.

Cornelius played his worst game of the season in LACES' 59-53 semifinal win over Rancho Dominguez on Wednesday scoring just two points. 

But on Saturday, the positive reinforcement from Trujeque worked as Cornelius erupted for 13 third quarter points and finished with a game high 18 leading LACES to a 61-46 win. 

"He showed up when it was time to show up," Trujeque said. "He’s only a sophomore. His future is bright.”

LACES and Van Nuys were knotted at 24 apiece at halftime before Cornelius' third quarter heroics. The sophomore had two 3-point plays and hit a buzzer beating 3 to put the Unicorns ahead 47-38.

In the fourth quarter, LACES senior Stathi Marcopulas hit the 3-point dagger with 1:42 on the clock giving the Unicorns a 57-45 edge.

LACES' City title win was three years in the making, according to Trujeque. 

“This is an unbelievable feeling," he said. "From where this program was at three years ago to be in this game right now, it’s a surreal feeling. I’m going to have to take some time to really take it in. The last three years this program has only won about 18 games so to be here today, it’s astonishing what our hard work got done.”

From Jan. 24 to Feb. 9, LACES lost seven games in a row in the challenging Western League, but the stiff competition was ultimately worth it since it ended up contributing to Saturday's win.

“I told the guys [during that stretch] we’re getting prepared for something bigger and to stay the course, stay mentally strong," Trujeque said.

Senior Andrew Angulo led Van Nuys with 13 points in defeat.

"Our shots didn't fall and we could have used some more size," Wolves head coach Evan Porter said.