The tallest, most imposing player let out a roar and most of the crowd inside the Buchanan High gym erupted in cheers.
After a poor start, it all seemed to be going the Bears' way.
Second-seeded Buchanan had forced a deciding set Wednesday night in the semifinals of the CIF Southern California boys volleyball regional on 6-foot-10 Patrick Gasman's thunderous kill against No. 3 Loyola-Los Angeles.
But just as the Bears' attack seemed to find its rhythm, the serving and passing errors that plagued them in the first two sets returned. Loyola again pounced on those mistakes and escaped with a 25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 18-25, 15-10 victory.
"The momentum was in our favor," Buchanan coach John Jay said. "I liked our mind-set and how the match was playing out.
"We just started making a few mistakes, and there's just no room for mistakes when you're playing up to 15 points. It caught up to us fast."
Buchanan (33-5) trailed by as many as five points in set five, as Loyola's aggressive serves made it difficult for the Bears to make clean returns.
And when Buchanan did make a clean pass, the Cubs focused on blocking Gasman or any other player trying to execute the quick-set attack that had keyed the Bears' comeback in sets three and four.
Loyola (26-4), ranked second nationally by Student Sports, made the needed adjustments to defeat Buchanan for the second time in three matches this season.
"We were committing the middle on every play they had a perfect pass, keyed on their tall guy," said Loyola coach Michael Boehle, whose Cubs advanced to a Saturday final against top-seeded Huntington Beach. "I knew Buchanan would be ready and come out to play.
"We got those first two games, which kind of surprised me. They battled to take the next two as I knew they would. Then, it was a matter of whoever would play not to lose was going to lose that (fifth) game. Both teams started to get tight. Fortunately for us, I think we came out more relaxed."
Loyola outside hitter Hayden Boehle, the coach's son, amassed a match-high 31 kills, a few of them recorded on back-row attacks that threw off Buchanan's timing on blocks. Setter Ian Schwan had 38 assists.
Bears setter David Wiechmann had 50 assists and right-side hitter Donovan Mitchell 19 kills. Gasman finished with eight kills and six blocks, and Lake Merchen 13 kills and nine digs.
"I liked the fight we showed," Gasman said. "They were able to gain some early momentum in the last game and we just didn't push hard enough back.
"We played a good game. Our serving and passing just didn't keep up with theirs. But it's not disappointing. If we were going to lose, I'm glad we lost fighting and not giving up."
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