BURROUGHS HIGH — The competitive spirit of the Burroughs High girls' basketball team was forged last summer when it played nearly 60 games.
The Indians got an inkling that they might be in for a successful season in December when they won the Valencia High Five Classic.
The squad's players and coaches began realizing they could have a shot of capturing a league title last month when they defeated defending champion Muir.
It has been a long and arduous road for Burroughs this season in its quest to secure the program's first league crown in more than three decades. The Indians finally reached their destination Tuesday, as they defeated Hoover, 73-29, at home to clinch the outright Pacific League championship.
It is the first title for Burroughs (22-5, 12-1 in league) since 1978, when Coach Jerry Libman led his Indians to a title in the Foothill League.
"This is just awesome, and it means a lot to me," said Burroughs sophomore Aysia Shellmire about wining the title. "We have been thinking about winning the league title this whole season. Ever since I've been here as a freshman, I've been looking up [at the championship banners] and seeing 1978 as the last title. So it's really exciting to win it and not have to share it with anybody."
Shellmire stepped up her game against Hoover (1-18, 0-12). She poured in a game-high 23 points to go along with 14 rebounds and three blocks.
The Indians, who are on a 10-game winning streak and are tied for fourth in CIF Southern Section Division II-AA, have been paced throughout the season by the inspired play and leadership of senior Lisha Elsenbach. Elsenbach entered Tuesday's game averaging a league-best 17.4 points a game. In addition, the senior has scored in doubles figures in 26 of her team's 27 games and has poured in 20 or more points in nine contests.
Elsenbach scored 15 points and had seven rebounds Tuesday.
Elsenbach said one of the reasons why the Indians have been able to be successful this season is because the players get along so well.
"We're all really close," said the All-Area standout. "We spend a lot of time with each other and it's been fun to be a part of this team this year."
The Tornadoes never really posed a problem for Burroughs. Although Hoover took a momentary lead, 4-3, in the first quarter, the Indians came blazing back. Burroughs embarked on a 17-0 run the remainder of the quarter and held a 20-4 lead after one.
It was more of the same in the second quarter, as Hoover was outscored, 20-3.
The Burroughs defense kept the Tornadoes in check, forcing 13 turnovers in the first half. That defense helped lead to a three-of-24 shooting performance by Hoover in the first half.
"Our motto has been that we want to play our kind of defense because we're good at it," Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan said. "And if we have to adjust, than we'll adjust."
Things were a little tighter in the second half, as Oganyan cleared her bench and everyone on the roster got into he game.
Sophomore Bailee Trotta scored six points off the bench.
Burroughs has a chance to end the regular season on a high note when it takes on host Burbank at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Pacific League finale for both teams.
Having already secured a league championship, Oganyan said there is no chance her Indians are going to sleepwalk their way through the cross-town rivalry matchup.
"We know that Burbank is going to be ready for us, so we have to be prepared," said Oganyan, whose squad defeated the Bulldogs twice this season, 60-50 on Dec. 21 in a tournament game and 50-31 on Jan 21 in league. "They are going for a playoff spot and we have to make sure we play hard."