BURBANK — The Burbank High boys' basketball team played perhaps its finest half of the season Friday night.
The effort was significant because it came in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs against Santa Monica, the division's No. 2 seed and a top-30 team in the state.
Not rattled by the Vikings' pedigree, the Bulldogs enjoyed a nine-point lead in the second quarter and carried that advantage into the third. But Burbank couldn't sustain its momentum, struggling in the third quarter, which allowed Santa Monica to surge ahead and escape with a 58-46 win at Burbank.
It was a second-straight valiant effort for the Bulldogs (16-13), who upset No. 15 Loara, 55-43, in a first-round game Friday. Burbank qualified for the postseason after finishing fourth in the Pacific League.
Santa Monica (22-6), on the other hand, won a championship in the Ocean League.
"We hard to earn our way to play this team," Burbank first-year Coach Jerry DeLaurie said. "We were just this little underdog and nobody thought that we had a chance to play with this team, the No. 2 team and a top-30 team in the state. We were just an overachieving team and we were going to go out there and play as hard as we can."
With no star players, DeLaurie used a bench rotation that continually shuffled in fresh bodies throughout the contest. That allowed the Bulldogs to stay fresh on defense, as they played tightly against the Vikings through the course of the first two quarters.
"I'm very proud of my team," said Burbank's Sarkis Karian, who had a team-high 16 points to go along with six rebounds. "We knew that we were going to be the underdogs, so we just came out, worked hard and tried to play as a team."
The Bulldogs did have trouble containing Santa Monica's Jordan Mathews, who is headed to the University of California. Mathews poured in a game-high 22 points and chipped in nine rebounds.
Despite Mathews scoring 11 points in the first half, it was the Bulldogs who took control of the game early on. Paced by six first-quarter points from Karian, Burbank jumped out to a 17-12 advantage after one quarter.
The Bulldogs didn't let up in the second quarter, although Santa Monica cut the lead to 1, 19-18, when Chris Smith scored on a layup with 4:35 remaining. But Burbank responded to the challenge, and when Greg Salas drained a three-pointer with 2:09 remaining, Burbank had built its biggest lead of the game, 30-21.
"What we were able to do for those first two quarters was amazing," DeLaurie said. "They were bigger, stronger and faster than us in every way. But we were moving the ball around, playing good team defense, helping each other out and hitting some threes."
Burbank converted five three-pointers in the first half. As a result, the Bulldogs went into the break with a 30-27 lead.
Trying to sustain its momentum into the second half, Burbank went cold in the first three minutes of the third, missing its first three shots from the field. Taking advantage of the skid, Santa Monica came roaring back to take a 33-30 lead.
But still with some fight left in them, the Bulldogs fought back, tying the score at 34 on a basket by Richard Elmoyan with 4:11 remaining in the stanza.
"I give credit to Burbank, they played hard," Santa Monica Coach James Hecht said. "They made us work for everything that we got."
After tying the score, the Vikings took control and led, 43-36, after three quarters. Burbank couldn't get closer than seven points in the fourth.
Salas added 12 for Burbank, all on four three-pointers.