The Spartans of La Cañada lost a tough match-up to John Burroughs High School of Burbank, 48-53, in a high school summer league basketball exhibition game Tuesday night.
Playing in front of a crowd close to 50 in the Burbank High School gymnasium, the Spartans jumped out to an early 11-2 lead in the first quarter. Burroughs' sloppy play and missed shots led to the Spartans' run, which resulted through execution and ball movement in the perimeter.
La Cañada handed the lead back after poor transition defense that led to numerous fast break opportunities for the Indians.
The Tuesday game was one of the first the team has played since the loss of last year's entire starting lineup due to graduation — including star Adam Malik.
"We are getting better," said Spartan head coach Tom Hofman. "Experience wise, we are a young team. Our inexperience is a big weakness. We have no starters back from last year."
Thirty-seven of Burroughs' 53 points were cashed in by guard Charles Barrett. The Indian's center Chris Smith chipped in with another 15.
Barrett's ability to execute in the paint during changes in possession gave the Spartans' defense an early test.
"During the summer, we are emphasizing a lot on defense," said Hofman. "I see our defense as a strength. We will later shift our focus over to offense."
After a 17-4 run at the midway point of the second quarter, Burroughs led 28-21 at halftime.
The Spartans were playing come-from-behind until the end of the third quarter, due mainly to Burroughs forcing outside shots and the Spartans inability to finish scoring opportunities in the paint.
But in the third quarter, the Spartans won decisive defensive battles as the team shifted into gear, something to which Hoffman intends on working throughout the summer.
Led by a team-high 11 points from forward Steven Johnson and 10 from guard Will Omokawa, the Spartans took a three-point lead with nine minutes left in the game.
However, fast break chances continued and Burroughs capitalized on late turnovers and uncontested scoring in the paint.
At one point, with consecutive three pointers, the Spartans closed the gap to a one-possession game with 35 seconds to go, but Burroughs hit free throws in the closing seconds to finish the game.
Serving only as preparation for the upcoming season, Hofman said games like Tuesday's build on goals and team chemistry.
"We are looking for maximum output and challenging our new players," he said. "We will look at finding strengths and weaknesses and will evaluate when the summer is over."
The continuing summer season has the Spartans opening in a special tournament in Glendora. They will play Hart High School, who Hofman said is a "tough team and great opening opponent."