PASADENA — Missing players who have transferred out and possessing a young group of athletes with little varsity experience, the Muir High girls' basketball team — with just seven players — is a far cry from last year's squad that captured a Pacific League championship.
Even though the Mustangs are down this year, the Burbank players and coaches didn’t want to take anything for granted when the squads met Friday in a league contest. Instead, the Bulldogs realized a solid effort would extinguish years of league futility against the Mustangs.
Burbank played tight defense, converted its free throws and generally played a spirited game against Muir. The result was an easy 60-40 victory on the road for the Bulldogs.
The victory is the first by Burbank (7-10, 3-1 in league) against Muir (6-6, 1-3) since the Bulldogs joined the Pacific League for the 2006-07 season.
“We knew that we hadn’t beaten them before, so it was a very big game for us,” Burbank senior Jamie Gonzalez said. “We knew we had to go out there and work hard to get the win.”
Burbank Coach Bruce Breeden has beaten Muir before, but that was when he was a coach at Crescenta Valley. Breeden said he and his coaches developed a detailed game plan in an attempt to defeat the Mustangs.
“When we beat Muir before with bigs we just played them tight and forced them to take shots from the outside,” Breeden said. “I think that was the right call because it worked tonight.”
The Bulldogs received a big effort Gonzalez, who poured in 18 points to go along with six rebounds and six steals. The senior was also impressive from the free-throw line, converting nine of 10 attempts. Teammate Aja Locke added 14 points and nine rebounds.
As a team, Burbank made 19 of 25 attempts from the charity stripe.
Muir had a problem taking care of the ball against the Bulldogs, as it committed 24 turnovers.
“We have a very young team and only having seven girls is tough on us,” Muir Coach Gary Johnson said. “But other than that, sometimes I think the girls get angry at themselves and they sometimes blank out on everything we taught them. I think that’s when the mistakes happen.”
Burbank was able to survive some shaky shooting in the first quarter when it converted just four of its 15 shots from the floor. Despite the troubles, the Bulldogs led after one, 12-8.
After enjoying a 29-21 advantage at halftime, the Bulldogs began to create separation in the third quarter, outscoring the Mustangs, 12-7, to take a 13-point lead into the final quarter, 41-28.
But the fourth is when Burbank turned it on and left the Mustangs in its wake.