BURROUGHS HIGH — Things just got crowded atop the Pacific League standings in girls' basketball.
Burroughs High came into Wednesday in first place in league, one game ahead of Arcadia and Burbank. A win at home against the Apaches would keep the Indians in sole possession of the top spot and drop Arcadia two games behind in the chase.
However, the Indians couldn’t seize the opportunity. Burroughs endured a poor shooting effort in the early going and the Apaches forged out in front, leading by 21 points at one point in the third quarter.
Although the Indians battled back and cut the deficit to three with seconds remaining, they couldn’t make it all the way back, suffering a 52-49 defeat.
With the loss, Burroughs (16-3, 5-1 in league) is tied with Burbank (9-10, 5-1) — which defeated Hoover on Wednesday, 56-27 — and Arcadia (15-3, 5-1).
That makes Friday’s Burbank-Burroughs rivalry matchup all the more intriguing. The teams will play at 5:30 p.m. at Burroughs.
“We just had a really bad first half,” Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan said. “That’s the worst we’ve played all year. I’ve never seen some of our players shoot like they did in this game, it was that bad.”
The Indians converted just seven of 27 shots from the field in the first half. Burroughs was missing easy layups, not converting on putbacks and unable to get into any kind of shooting rhythm.
Despite being held scoreless in the first quarter, Burroughs senior Aysia Shellmire finally started getting hot in the second. In three quarters, Shellmire poured in a game-high 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds and four blocks.
Oganyan said she noticed that her team was visibly nervous before the game and that might have led to its shooting woes early on.
“They’re young, so that might’ve also had something to do with it,” she said. “This was a big game for them and I could tell that they weren’t their usual selves. We just tried to tell them to calm down; this is just a basketball game.”
Early in the contest, the Burroughs defense did a good job containing Arcadia sharpshooter Melody Chang, who came into the game averaging 24.5 points a game. Chang was held scoreless in the first quarter, but ended the game with 13 points when Arcadia abandoned its motion offense and ran isolation for the senior.
Stepping up in her place was sophomore Caira Benton, who finished with 18 points. She also had 13 rebounds.
With Chang being hounded, Benten said her teammates had to take up the slack.
“It forces us to step up,” she said. “When she graduates, we’re going to have to take over. They don’t know that much about us, so we try and take advantage of that.”
While struggling, Burroughs trailed just 8-5 after the first quarter. The team missed its first nine shots from the field to start the game.
But Chang stepped up in the second, scoring 11 points to pace Arcadia to a 32-19 lead at halftime.
The Apaches kept up the pressure in the third quarter and when Benton converted a putback with 5:06 left, Arcadia’s lead had swelled to 21, 40-19. But the Indians kept coming back, riding Shellmire’s eight third-quarter points to go into the fourth down 11, 42-31.
Burroughs kept coming. When Delaney Nicol hit a runner with 19 seconds remaining, the deficit was just three, 52-49. The Indians had a chance to tie the score with time running out, but Davina Del Castillo’s desperation shot just inside midcourt missed its mark.