BURBANK — Pressure came at the Burroughs High girls’ basketball team for the entirety of its third-place game against Mark Keppel in the West Coast Holiday Classic on Saturday at Burroughs.
Though the Indians felt the heat, they were able to withstand the incessant defensive barrage the Aztecs threw at them, and the home side led for much of the game.
But a Mark Keppel scoring run with three minutes left tied the score, and Burroughs eventually caved under the pressure suffered a 53-52 defeat.
Burroughs (13-5) held a lead over Mark Keppel since 4:21 in the second quarter before Aztecs guard Vanessa Aguirre scored on a layup to make it 45-43 with 3:23 left.
The senior then stole a Burroughs inbound pass and tied the score at 45 with 3:13 left and followed that with a three-pointer to give Mark Keppel (9-4) its first lead of the game, 48-45, with 2:50 remaining.
The teams fought back-and-forth for the lead and the Indians led, 52-51, with 25 seconds left on a Dyani Del Castillo layup. But Aztecs junior Patricia Chung drove down the lane for the game-winning layup with 9.5 seconds left.
“It’s something we’ve been struggling with all year,” Burroughs coach Vicky Oganyan said. “We’ve had other games where in the fourth quarter we kind of have a hard time, but it’s just about trying to learn from it and get better, and, hopefully, down the line, maybe not this year, maybe next year, they’re going to figure it out.”
Burroughs sophomore Faith Boulanger led the Indians with 21 points and Del Castillo added 17 points and nine rebounds.
The sophomore pair were the only double-digit scorers for the Indians, as Boulanger scored 14 and Del Castillo had 11 in the first half, despite a tough defensive effort from the Aztecs.
“They were pretty fast,” Boulanger said. “We had the height advantage, but we gave up tons of rebounds that we shouldn’t have.
“I thought as the game went on, we started to realize we had to pick up our game and I think we just ran out of energy towards the end.”
The Indians were outrebounded on the offensive end, 10-4, in the first half, but were able to maintain their lead for much of the span.
“For us, that’s what we live on: ball pressure,” Mark Keppel coach Jose Herrera said. “We had some missed assignments where those 50-50 balls ended around their baskets and one of the girls in white jerseys got it and laid it up, so it wasn’t falling our way.
“We just kept telling the girls to keep with it and they did. They kept with it, and now the 50-50 balls weren’t going Burroughs’ way, it went our way. Great team, and we were able to pull this one off.”
The Indians fended off the Aztecs’ for much of the first quarter, especially at the 2:39 mark as the visitors grabbed two consecutive steals, but couldn’t capitalize on scoring as the hosts led, 11-10.
Boulanger nailed a three-pointer with 30.4 seconds left to give the Indians a 17-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
“I thought we actually did a pretty good job handling their pressure because they come at you the entire game and I knew that was going to happen, so it was interesting how we were going to handle it and I thought we did a pretty good job,” Oganyan said.
Boulanger hit another shot to give Burroughs a 19-14 lead to start the second quarter, before a three-pointer from Aguirre tied it up at 21 at the 4:57 mark.
The Indians were able to regain the lead with a three-pointer from Camryn Lotka at the 4:21 mark and closed out the half with a 30-25 lead.
Burroughs established its largest lead of the game, 36-27, with 5:25 left in the third courtesy of a layup from sophomore forward Kayla Worbel.
The Aztecs battled back with a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 43-39 at the end of the third quarter.
The Indians did not score a basket until 4:06 in the fourth quarter, and at that point, established a 45-41 advantage.
Aguirre’s own 7-0 scoring run started at the 3:23 mark, before Boulanger hit a three-pointer with 2:30 left to tie it at 48.
Chung responded immediately with a three-point shot to give the Aztecs a 51-48 lead, before Boulanger and Del Castillo combined to restore the Indians’ one-point cushion, 52-51.
“At that point, it’s just making sure that we get a shot up,” Herrera said. “We kept telling our girls to not turnover the ball and protect the ball, and whoever protects the ball and has more shot attempts is going to win the game.
“That was on our mindset for the last five minutes of the game and we were able to sustain Burroughs’ pressure and we protected the ball well. We got great shots, great looks and we were lucky that they fell in.”