Falcons can't grab boards, lose late against Muir

PASADENA — Cleaning the glass was key to the Muir High girls' basketball team keeping a spotless Pacific League record when Crescenta Valley visited Tuesday.

The Mustangs out rebounded the Falcons by 22 in the second half to maintain a healthy lead and pull off a 45-34 home victory.

Muir's Emoni Jackson, who finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds, said the boards are always key.

"We always focus on rebounds because if you get the rebound its another second chance and those rebounds might be important when it comes to close games," Jackson said.

Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez said he believed luck also wasn't on his team's side Tuesday.

"In the first four or five minutes of the second half we came out here and absolutely outplayed them, but we missed about five in-and-out shots that just didn't fall," Perez said. "I think if you hit some of those it's a whole different ball game."

The Mustangs were also dealt some bad news when they possibly lost senior forward and captain Tyler Polk for the rest of the year when she re-injured her right knee late in the third quarter. It was her first appearance this season after she sat out the first 19 games of the campaign with the injured knee.

"I think that's it for her, she got cleared to play and that happens," Muir Coach Gary Johnson said. "That's a blow because to be honest, she's the cornerstone to our team, she's the glue.

"I knew once we got her back we'd be in really good shape, but it looks like we won't. Now the other girls have to step up and fill that void."

Jackson carried the load for Muir, ranked third in CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA, on offense, defense and the boards. Not only did she set game-highs in points and rebounds, but she guarded Crescenta Valley's primary offensive weapon, Ella Stepanian, who finished with 11 points after being held scoreless in the fourth quarter.

Crescenta Valley also received 10 points, five rebounds and four steals from Catherine Davis and nine points and five boards from Samira Seraji.

The Falcons (10-8, 2-4 in league) never let the game get out of reach. Davis hit a three-pointer with seven seconds left in the first quarter to cut her team's deficit to 16-11. She hit another three with a minute left in the second quarter to cut Muir's lead to 24-17.

Tahniya Sweatt (11 rebounds, nine points) sent the Mustangs (17-3, 6-0) into halftime with a 26-17 lead after hitting a running layup in the final minute of the half. Muir improved on its edge in the second half by out rebounding the Falcons, 27-7.

"They started getting a lot of offensive rebounds because we were getting a little tired," Perez said. "They had a little bit more depth than we did and more height and size inside."

Down, 33-21, late in the third quarter, Stepanian looked to bring the Falcons back when she hit a deep three-pointer. A minute later she laid one up and in following a Davis steal to bring the score to 33-26 with a 1:30 left in the third.

Muir pushed back out to a 38-26 lead before the final quarter on a put back bucket from Sweatt and a converted an and-one opportunity from Jackson. Jackson scored all seven of her team's fourth-quarter points.

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