Participating in the fourth annual Ernie Wallengren Tournament at Camarillo High last week, the La Cañada boys' junior varsity basketball team lost the first three games of the competition, but bounced back to win the fourth contest and finish seventh in the tourney.
In the first game against Camarillo on Dec. 26, the Spartans played a hard-fought defensive game that literally came down to the final play.
During the game, both teams kept swapping points and the lead. Justin Dailey topped the Spartans with 10 points, two of which came on a second quarter buzzer-beater. Teammates Steven Johnson and Will Omokawa chipped in six points each.
At the end, the Spartans were behind 39-38 with .4 seconds left on the clock and had the ball at the opposite end of the court. Unfortunately, a long shot attempt to win the contest failed as the ball hit a light fixture in the ceiling of the gym to give the Scorpions the slim victory.
Coming off this disappointing loss to Camarillo, the Spartans had to face the most difficult team in the tournament, Westlake, the following day.
La Cañada played strong throughout the first half, but ran out of gas in the third quarter to allow Westlake to pull away.
Frustrated with the big lead that the Warriors had built up in the fourth quarter, La Cañada coach Dan Nieman decided to put in several inexperienced players.
Although his move didn't change the outcome of the game, it did allow these Spartans to gain valuable court experience and also gave them a chance to show they could play great defense.
Will Baldwin and Omokawa led the Spartans with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Westlake won the contest, 53-44.
After being chewed out by their coaches for not putting enough heart into their play, the 0-2 Spartans took on West Hills Chaminade on Dec. 28.
Even though it was a neck-and-neck battle all the way through the contest, the Spartans couldn't keep up and lost their third game of the tournament, 74-64.
Joe Robinson led La Cañada with 20 points. Omokawa and Ryan Lipscomb followed with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
In the final game of the tournament last Thursday, to decide seventh and eighth place, the Spartans refused to go home winless.
La Cañada led most of the way to half time and came out with their strongest third quarter yet to increase their lead.
This was a step in the right direction for the team as they often lost games in the third quarter.
Robinson was the top scorer for La Cañada for the second straight day with 16 points. He was complimented by Omokawa and Michael Mikuni who pumped in 13 and six points, respectively.
The Spartans won the game 54-49 to finish 1-3 in the tournament.
La Cañada won't play again until next Wednesday when the team will travel to Monrovia to open Rio Hondo League play with a 3:30 p.m. game.