BURBANK — With the graduation of standout Aysia Shellmire, the Burroughs High girls' basketball team is taking time during the summer to adjust to playing without a dominant player in the paint.
For La Cañada, there is a familiar player running its offense this summer. Courtney Chen, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, is perfecting her game and leading the Spartans before embarking on her senior season in the winter.
Dealing with their separate challenges, the Indians and Spartans met Tuesday in a Burroughs High summer league game. Although the Spartans enjoyed a 10-point lead in the second half, they couldn't hold on to the advantage, as Burroughs surged to send the contest into overtime and pulled out the win when Sidney Ortega drained a three-pointer in the final seconds of a 29-28 victory.
The Indians, who are still adjusting to life without Shellmire, an All-CIF Southern Section and All-Area player, didn't play well in the first half. However, Burroughs stepped up its game in the second half and was able to erase the La Cañada lead.
"We used to have a lot more plays just for Aysia, but now that she's gone we have more plays for our guards," Burroughs' Abbey Ibarra said. "It's hard not having her when we need a big shot, but we have some players who can step up."
While the Indians turned up their intensity in the second half and looked to have the momentum heading into overtime, they missed early opportunities in the extra period. Ortega missed on a layup and Ibarra was off the mark with a three-point attempt. Sandwiched in between was a missed layup by the Spartans' Keilee Bessho.
However, La Cañada was able to grab the lead when Chen took the ball down the left side, pulled up just outside the key and drained a basket to give the Spartans a 28-26 lead.
Following another miss on a jumper by Ortega, the Indians got the rebound and got the ball back to her at the top of the key. Ortega stopped, elevated and sank the long-range shot to put Burroughs up, 29-28, with 21 seconds remaining.
"I knew this was the shot that was going to help us get ahead, and it was a shot that I thought I had to take," said Ortega, who finished with seven points. "If I didn't take it, it would have been a lost opportunity."
On the next Spartans' possession, the Indians' Davina Del Castillo stole the ball. The Indians had two late free-throw attempts, but couldn't capitalize.
Del Castillo tallied eight points, 15 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Chen and Aundrea Issakhanian paced the Spartans with 10 points each.
"One of the things that has been a reoccurring theme with us during the summer is us being sloppy with the ball when we're under a little pressure," La Cañada assistant coach John Ozawa said. "I think we just have to have a little more confidence in ourselves.
"We are really good at looking for Courtney all the time, but we have to get better at our confidence level when she doesn't have the ball."
The Spartans enjoyed a 17-9 advantage at the intermission. La Cañada increased its lead to 10, 19-9, when Issakhanian sank a bucket to open the second half.
But Burroughs chipped away at the lead. The Indians were finally able to tie the score at 26 when Del Castillo converted a free throw with 1:30 left in regulation.
Both teams had their opportunities to break the deadlock in the final minute and 30 seconds. The best chance came after Burroughs called a timeout with 19.1 left. Del Castillo took a perfect backdoor pass under the basket, but her shot rolled off the rim.
"We don't really practice plays during the summer," Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan said. "So to actually come out of a timeout, run the correct play and even have that opportunity was really encouraging for us."