BURBANK HIGH — The Burbank High girls' basketball coaches and players were unaware of the added significance that Friday's cross-town rivalry game against Burroughs held.
A short time before the Bulldogs took on the visiting Indians in a Pacific League game, undefeated Muir lost its first league contest of the season to Pasadena. That meant Burbank, which came into Friday's game with one league loss, could grab a share of the league lead with a win.
Although it was a struggle, Burbank overcame a six-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to earn a 37-34 win at home.
The victory allows the Bulldogs (12-8, 6-1 in league) to share top league placement with Muir (14-4, 6-1), which fell to host Pasadena, 36-34.
"This is the first time we've been in first place since we were 3-1 in the old Foothill League after upsetting [Canyon Country] Canyon," Burbank Coach Bruce Breeden said. "And that was probably six or seven years ago. But the girls know we've still got a lot of work to do and we have to prepare for Monday [against Pasadena]."
Friday's win was the first by the Bulldogs against Burroughs (7-12, 2-5) — the defending league champion — since Feb. 13, 2009, when Burbank earned a 56-54 overtime win at home.
After a sloppy first half that saw both teams combine for 36 turnovers and Burroughs cling to a 19-18 lead, the teams took turns holding the lead in the second half.
After enjoying a 27-24 lead after three quarters, the Indians continued to play well in the early going of the fourth, increasing their advantage to 30-24 with 6:32 remaining after Bailee Trotta sank two free throws.
"It's a rivalry game, so there's always some jitters," said Burbank senior Damarie Gonzalez, who had a game-high 10 points. "But we knew we had to come out confident and just play our best."
However, Burbank continued to stay close and slowly chipped away at the lead.
The Bulldogs were aided in that respect when the Indians' leading scorer, junior Aysia Shellmire, fouled out with 3:36 remaining. Shellmire had nine points to go along with five blocks. She was one of three Burroughs players who fouled out.
The Bulldogs pulled ahead, 35-34, when Jamie Gonzalez made good on a driving layup with 1:45 left.
"Her fouling out not only hurt us offensively, but defensively," Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan said of Shellmire. "Because she would be protecting the basket and their layups wouldn't be happening."
Burbank also received two clutch free throws by Jamie Gonzalez with five seconds remaining.
Burroughs had one last chance to win the game in the final seconds but couldn't get off a shot. The officials then ruled that the game clock had been started too quickly and the Indians were awarded the ball back with another five seconds. But again, they couldn't score.