LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — With its sights squarely set on overtaking Alemany High for third place in the Mission League, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy girls' basketball team got the rare opportunity to take a shot directly at the Warriors on its home court Thursday night.
But even up close, Alemany proved to be an elusive target, winning, 66-56, and forcing the Tologs to rely on an at-large bid to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Division 5AA postseason.
"I told the girls before this game that we needed to approach this like it's a playoff game because if we would have won this game it would have put us in a position to still take third place and an automatic bid from Mission League for CIF," said Tologs Coach Gino Pacella, whose team has two league games remaining and is currently ranked eighth in the division. "Now we have to go in as an at-large."
Sacred Heart (14-10, 3-5 in league) got 18 points and 13 rebounds from center Lana Haddad and 14 points from guard Vanessa Romero, but could only muster one field goal over the first 6:40 of the fourth quarter, which it entered holding a four-point lead.
There wasn't much nuance to the Tologs' offensive attack in the final period, as they settled primarily for jump shots, missing all but three of their 14 total shot attempts for the final period, and fueling the Warriors' fast break.
Haddad, who led all scorers in the third quarter with nine points, mostly off layups deep in the paint, got limited touches in the fourth quarter and did not get a shot attempt.
"Our first focus is to always go into Lana and see what we can get working in the low post," Pacella said, "but it just comes down to mental composure."
Alemany (13-12, 6-2 in league), which is ranked ninth in Division 3A, used a 22-6 run from the onset of the fourth quarter to take a 63-50 lead at the 1:39 mark on an easy layup off an inbounds pass for center Hannah Johnson, who led all scorers with 25 points and pulled down 11 boards.
"[We had] way too many [turnovers] in the first half, but the killer in a game like that is we go 10 for 25 at the foul line," Pacella said. "You add that up with the 18 turnovers in the first half and you just can't play that way."