Sacred Heart begins tournament on wrong note

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — With the ultra-competitive Mission League portion of the schedule around the corner, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy basketball Coach Gino Pacella has some worries concerning his team.

For the first time since Pacella took over the program in 2008, the Tologs appear to have cohesiveness and experience. That's led to expectations being set high by Pacella.

Pacella wasn't please with what took place Monday afternoon during Flintridge Sacred Heart's 68-50 loss to Montclair Prep in a pool-play game of the fourth annual New Year's Ball Tournament at La Cañada High.

"It's just not there yet," said Pacella, whose team dropped to 7-3 and will meet La Salle in another pool-play contest at 4 p.m. today before concluding pool-play action at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Arcadia. "It's not about being inexperienced anymore, either.

"We just don't have the ability right now to play a team of this level like Montclair Prep. There's plenty of experience on the court this year. It's still about mental composure. They make a good play and then they think they can take off the next one or two plays. You can't do that."

The Tologs, who qualified for the playoffs the last two seasons, managed to stay in the game midway through the fourth quarter. Flintridge Sacred Heart trailed, 47-45, before Montclair Prep (8-2) got a three-pointer from senior forward Alex Taylor to make it 50-45 with 3:46 left that began a 21-5 run to end the game for the victors.

Things started off well for the Tologs, who began the game making jumps shots from around the perimeter. Flintridge Sacred Heart jumped out to a 15-4 lead on a layup by senior guard Stephanie Ramsden with 2:48 remaining in the opening stanza.

However, Montclair Prep closed out the quarter on an 11-0 run to knot the score at 15. Flintridge Sacred Heart received 10 first-quarter points from senior guard Vanessa Romero. Romero registered 18 points and seven rebounds.

Flintridge Sacred Heart took a 28-26 lead on a layup by Romero with 15 seconds left in the first half, but the Mounties made two free throws to tie the game at 28 at the intermission.

A steal and layup by senior forward Olivia Warner gave the Tologs a 35-34 advantage with 3:43 remaining in the third quarter.

Flintridge Sacred Heart received 11 points from junior center Lana Haddad, nine points from Ramsden and six assists from sophomore guard Dana Budzyn, a reigning all-league honoree.

Flintridge Sacred Heart, which opened the season by winning the San Marino Tournament and then taking third in the Pasadena Poly Tournament, played without starting center Ivy Fitzgerald on Monday. Pacella said Fitzgerald, a junior, suffered a knee injury Dec. 9 against L.A. Baptist in a Pasadena Poly Tournament contest.

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