INGLEWOOD — Come playoff time, only one team gets to end its season exactly how it would like.
The unforgiving fact about the postseason is its win or go home.
Wednesday night inside the gym at Inglewood High, the Burroughs girls’ basketball team faced its toughest challenge of its storybook season.
What awaited the No. 4-seeded Indians was a stiff test against the No. 6-seeded Sentinels in a CIF Southern Section Division II-AA quarterfinal contest.
Host Inglewood never trailed and endured valiant comeback runs by the Indians throughout the game, winning, 74-65.
With the win, the Sentinels snapped Burroughs’ 13-game winning streak.
The Pacific-League-champion Indians (25-5) set the school’s all-time single-season mark for wins, and Wednesday’s quarterfinal appearance marked the deepest playoff run Coach Vicky Oganyan has had in her seven years at Burroughs.
But those accomplishments were overshadowed, at least temporarily, by the loss to Inglewood, which won the Division III-A championship a year ago.
“At the end of the season, you’re either going to win a CIF championship or you’re going to have a loss,” Oganyan said. “For us, the loss hurts, but what we take with us is the journey that we had.”
Shortly after the game ended, Burroughs walked back out of the locker room and onto the court where NBA superstar Paul Pierce got his start playing at Inglewood.
Determined, focused and eager expressions prior to the game had transformed into long faces, teary eyes and subtle sniffling.
“We gave it our best,” Burroughs senior Lisha Elsenbach said, trying to hold back tears. “It’s something you’re just never going to forget.”
Elsenbach finished with 18 points, five rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block.
Senior guard Chelsea Rhamdeow led the Indians with 22 points, five rebounds and a steal.
“She’s become a really good player,” Oganyan said of the senior. “Not just this game. Some games in league when Lisha didn’t have a great game, she stepped up offensively. The last two playoff games she’s been our leader. I can’t say enough of how much she’s improved.”
Inglewood led, 17-11, at the end of the first quarter. It extended the margin to 30-23 by halftime.
The Sentinels (23-7) used full court, man-to-man defensive pressure and mixed in various zone schemes that affected Burroughs on offense. Inglewood had 10 steals in the game, some of which also led to easy baskets the other way.
“That was the key,” Oganyan said. “They’re very physical.”
Elsenbach, the Pacific League leader in scoring, netted just six points in the first half. It was clear she was a point of emphasis for Inglewood, which consistently kept its best perimeter defender draped all over her.
“It was just hard to compete with their athleticism,” Elsenbach said. “They’re faster and bigger than us.”
Sophomore center Aysia Shellmire scored a lay-up and was fouled with under a minute to go in the third quarter, which brought Burroughs to within five points of the Sentinels.
Shellmire had eight points and four rebounds before fouling out with 5:59 left in the game.
She was charged with the difficult assignment of containing Inglewood’s 6-foot senior center, Deajanae Scurry, who signed a letter of intent to San Diego State.
Against Burroughs, Scurry was a force. She scored 18 points and was unrelenting on the glass, grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds.
“It’s hard to stop somebody who is 6-foot and is jumping out of the gym,” Oganyan said. “There’s no way you can stop that. You need to have another person like her to be able to stop her. When no calls are made, she’s going to climb over people’s backs and get a rebound. Nothing to take away from her. She’s a great player.”
With 7:31 left, Burroughs cut the deficit to 51-48, following five quick points from Rhamdeow and Michelle Zamudio.
Rhamdeow swished a three-pointer with 5:30 to go, bringing the Indians to within four points. She added a lay-up with 4:26 left, which again brought Burroughs to within four points.
“I thought we battled the whole game,” Oganyan said. “That’s all I could ask for. This core group of seniors… how hard they’ve worked and what they’ve accomplished is just amazing.”
Inglewood led, 70-65, with 30 seconds left, and sealed the win with a pair of free throws and a lay-up.
“We just played as hard as we could,” Elsenbach said.