LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — It's been a difficult past year for Brendan Hempstead, the burgeoning sophomore point guard for the La Canada High boys' basketball team.
In January, Hempstead's father, Todd, was diagnosed with cancer. It didn't stop his father from attending Hempstead's games and he often made his father proud with his contributions on the court.
The elder Hempstead died Friday at 58, and friends and teammates of the younger Hempstead attended the funeral Monday in La Cañada Flintridge.
Hempstead hasn't let the loss of his father affect his play on the court.
“I have a real good base with my family, friends and teammates,” said Hempstead, who recorded a game-high 17 points Tuesday to propel La Cañada to a 60-51 come-from-behind victory against Arcadia in a pool-play contest of the La Cañada Tournament. “I look at playing basketball as an outlet and my dad has always supported me.
“It meant a lot to see my teammates and coaches attend the funeral. It showed that they cared, and I thank my teammates for pushing me.”
Hempstead, who scored 29 points in a 62-51 pool-play game against Besant Hills on Monday, enjoyed a strong second half Tuesday in which he finished with 12 points to ignite the Spartans (5-1).
La Cañada Coach Tom Hofman said Hempstead has persevered through the early portion of the season.
“He's been pretty focused and has come through lately,” Hofman said. “His father loved to come and watch him play and he was a big basketball fan.
“We knew his father was sick. He was Brendan's biggest fan.”
The Spartans, who won the Rio Hondo League championship last season, struggled early against Arcadia (1-4). Hempstead helped the Spartans edge closer to the Apaches in the second half. He made a three-pointer to pull the Spartans to within 42-38 with 2:10 left in the third quarter.
La Cañada also received a big fourth-quarter performance from junior forward Kyle Thomas. Thomas made a pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with eight points.
“You come off the bench and you have to be prepared whether you are playing two minutes or 20 minutes,” said Thomas, whose second three-pointer gave La Cañada a 48-44 lead with 6:02 left. “You feel good to see Brendan being able to bounce back because he's the essence of our team.
“We are very glad to see him come back and pick things up. He's been able to fight through it, culminating with these last two games.”
Hempstead converted on a driving layup to give the Spartans a 55-48 advantage with 1:18 remaining and help the Spartans top the Apaches for the second time this season. La Canada posted a 46-44 pool-play win against Arcadia on Dec. 4 in the Arroyo Tournament.
Jack Anderson contributed nine points for the Spartans, who got 10 from Dan Jun.
Arcadia raced to a 15-3 lead on a three-pointer by Brian Taylor with 3:47 left in the first quarter. Arcadia held a 27-21 halftime lead.
The Apaches got 14 points from Ben Bowen, 13 from Taylor and 12 from Stephen Smith.