Sylmar lost six of its first seven games this season. Now the Spartans are champions.
Coach Bort Escoto's squad defeated Granada Hills 51-48 to win the CIty Section Division I title Saturday afternoon at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
“I can’t explain it… this is like “Angels in the Outfield” … it just happened,” Escoto said after becoming the first coach in City history to win back-to-back titles while moving up a division. “We were horrible at the start of the season. This is the least talented team I’ve had in my 21 years at the school but we came together at the right time.”
Tyler Hooks took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 14 points to spark the Spartans’ comeback. His driving layup tied it 39-39 with 6:31 left and he evened it 41-41 with another layup just over one minute later. Then he made two free throws to give the Spartans their first lead of the second half, 43-41, with 4:30 left.
“It’s my senior year so I had to step up for my team,” Hooks said. “We just had to get some stops down the stretch. We never thought we’d get here but tonight we knew we were the better team.”
Granada Hills trailed 50-48 when Jason Horosny missed a bank shot to the left of the basket. Clarence Williams grabbed the rebound and was fouled intentionally. He made the second of two free throws to put Sylmar (21-13) ahead by three with 8.7 seconds remaining.
Michael Kalu’s game-tying three-point attempt bounced off the rim with two seconds left and Horosny missed the putback as time expired.
Sylmar had to win four road playoff games en route to the title, including an overtime win over top-seeded Palisades in the quarterfinals. The Spartans defeated Garfield in the Division II final last winter.
The game was tied 14-14 after the first quarter but the second-seeded Highlanders (20-13) took a six-point lead to halftime thanks to Kalu and Horosny, who combined for 20 of their team’s 27 points in the first 16 minutes.
“We came out with fire and intensity in the second half and that’s what won it for us,” Williams said.