TEMPLE CITY — One of the main reasons the La Cañada High boys’ basketball team rode into Friday night on a four-game winning streak in the Rio Hondo League was because of its ability to shoot the three-pointer.
Well, the Spartans ran into the hotter hand at Temple City High Friday night. The Rams nailed 15 three-pointers en route to a commanding 73-47 victory, which locked them up at least a share of the league title.
“They’re the best team in the league this year,” La Cañada Coach Tom Hofman said of Temple City. “They got a lot of players back from last year, they’ve got great shooters and they shot real well.”
Temple City (18-5, 8-0 in league) needs to win just one of its remaining two games against Monrovia or Blair for sole possession of the crown — its first in about half a decade Rams Coach Eric Chin said.
In need of a hot start to stay with Temple City, ranked seventh in CIF Southern Section Division III-AA, La Cañada got exactly the opposite.
“This was a big game for us, we haven’t won league in probably like four or five years,” Chin said. “We knew we had to come out with a lot of energy or La Cañada was going to get us at home and we didn’t want that.”
Two of La Cañada’s shots were blocked in the first two minutes of the game. The Spartans (14-11, 6-2) also committed five turnovers in the first quarter and gave up a 10-2 run out of the gate with Eric Olivas hitting a trio of three-pointers in the first 4:14 of the game for the Rams.
La Cañada, which is ranked No. 13 in Division III-AA, didn’t have an answer for Olivas and Goren Lee, who came off the bench, of Temple City all night. Lee posted a game-high 27 points, nailing seven three-pointers, and Olivas added 21 points on six threes.
“We didn’t shoot well enough early to stay in the game,” Hofman said. “Once they got that 15-point gap, they’re too good a team, they’re not going to give it up. We needed a better first quarter to stay in the game, put a lot pressure on them and we didn’t do that.”
The Spartans, who also had 11 points from Dan Jun, saw the deficit grow to 18-9 at the end of the first quarter and managed to cut it to eight, 25-17, with 5:10 to play in the first half when Brendon Hempstead, who had a team-high 12 points, hit a baseline jumper.
Temple City went into halftime on a 13-5 spurt to put La Cañada behind, 38-22. The deficit remained about the same, as La Cañada’s Alec Baktamian (seven points) notched back-to-back buckets to keep the deficit within 15, 48-33, with 2:17 to play in the third.
That’s when the Rams put an end to any hope of a comeback, closing the quarter on an 11-0 run, which prompted Hofman to sit his starters in the fourth quarter. Nine of those points came on threes with Lee hitting two and Olivas adding another in the span.
“I am a little surprised, but I’m glad we did because we’re a good shooting team,” said Chin of the amount of three-pointers his team hit. “We just want to make sure Eric and Goren get their open shots. Without them, our season would be lost.”