BURBANK — The Burroughs High girls’ basketball team faced a formidable hurdle.
With just a one-game lead over Muir in the Pacific League standings, Wednesday’s matchup between the two teams was perhaps the Indians’ most important game of the season.
To compete against the Mustangs, the Indians had to overcome the stigma of a nine-point loss to Muir earlier this month.
Led by Lisha Elsenbach’s 23 points and aided by a fourth-quarter push, Burroughs outlasted the defending league champions with a 45-31 home victory.
The win keeps the Indians (18-4, 8-1 in league) — ranked No. 6 in CIF Southern Section Division II-AA — in first place in league with a two-game cushion over the Mustangs (6-3 in league) — No. 8 in Division III-AA.
“The win was big for us because if we lose, we would have to stay perfect in our final five league games,” said Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan about her team’s quest to win the program’s first league championship in 33 years. “Although we don’t want to lose any of those games, at least we have a little space being up two games.”
The victory avenged a 44-35 loss to Muir on Jan. 10.
Oganyan said her team played much better in ths game than in the first loss.
“I just told them to have confidence and don’t be afraid to shoot the ball,” she said. “We have struggled on offense this season, and we were able to play better on offense [Wednesday].”
Along with her 23 points, Elsenbach, who is averaging 18 points a game, had seven rebounds and four assists. Teammate Chelsea Rhamdeow added 10 points, Shannon Kermah had five rebounds and five steals and Aysia Shellmire had seven rebounds and three blocks.
Burroughs didn’t have much breathing room after two quarters, as they led, 19-18, at the half.
In the fourth quarter with the Indians leading, 34-28, Muir’s Tahniya Sweatt converted a long three-pointer to cut the advantage to three points.
However, Rhamdeow came right back and hit a big three-pointer of her own. From that point on, Elsenbach stepped up on offense and the Indians clamped down on defense.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Indians didn’t partake in a boisterous celebration.
“They really didn’t celebrate that much at all,” Oganyan said. “I think that they realized that although this was an important game for us, they still have some games left in the season. They still have a lot to play.”
With a win Friday against Pasadena, the Indians could possibly secure a share of their first league crown since 1988 on Feb. 4 with a league win against visiting Glendale.