MONROVIA — With all the preliminaries complete, it was time for La Cañada boys’ basketball to get to the real business of winning the Spartans’ sixth consecutive Rio Hondo League title.
That quest began Saturday evening with a road game at Monrovia.
La Cañada, led by the dominant play of big man Zach Feehan, controlled the game from start to finish against the host Wildcats to come away with a 69-50 win in the schools’ league opener.
“It’s always good to start the league with a win,” Feehan said. “We came to Monrovia and did what we needed to do. We got the win. That’s all that matters at this point, winning and winning and winning throughout [league play].”
In a game where La Cañada (13-5) did the majority of its scoring inside, it was Feehan who was the Spartans’ most potent weapon on offense and as a rebounder.
“I was able to control the glass the whole game and score the baskets I needed to,” Feehan said.
The senior finished with 21 points and a whopping 20 rebounds.
“Zach was solid. I think he is the best big man in this league and we told him that,” Spartan coach Tom Hofman said. “He is as improved a player as I’ve ever coached from last year to this year. He’s working hard and really getting better.”
Feehan scored all of his points in the first three quarters before sitting most of the fourth, as the game was well in hand.
Feehan had eight of the Spartans’ 17 points in the first quarter to set the tone. He also scored the final six points of the third quarter, all coming in the final two minutes.
La Cañada has now beaten Monrovia (8-10) seven times in a row. On the Wildcats’ home floor, the Spartans have won 10 straight games.
After the teams traded baskets to start the game, La Cañada reeled off the next 12 points to firmly take control. Feehan had six of the points in the run, all coming in the paint.
Monrovia managed just six points in the quarter against an active Spartan defense.
The Spartans then scored the first six points of the second, furthering the gap. Feehan had the only dunk of the contest to make the score 27-13.
The Spartans pushed their lead to s 32-17 at the half and La Cañada outpaced the hosts, 21-14 in the third quarter.
The Spartans started the fourth quarter on an 11-5 run. That led to the biggest lead of the game for the visitors at 28, following a Ryan Grande hoop with 5:15 to play.
Grande finished with 21 points. The sophomore poured in nine of those points in the final quarter as Monrovia’s intensity ratcheted up and La Cañada lost some of the crispness it had displayed in the first three.
“I think we played a real good 20 minutes today. I didn’t think [we played] a 32-minute game,” said Hofman, who is in his 32nd year.
Spartans Kyle Brown joined Feehan and Grande in double digits with 14 points and Graves tallied eight points. Senior Jake George had a team-high eight assists.
Monrovia had 11 players score. The Wildcats were led in that department by Charles Peirson with 10 points. Adrian Garcia and Joseph Rousseau both scored eight a piece.
In attendance Saturday night was former Lakers player and Monrovia graduate Corie Blount, who had his No. 33 Wildcats jersey retired at halftime. The 11-year NBA veteran still remembers coach Hofman and facing the Spartans.
“[Hofman] is just a good coach, man,” Blount said before the game. “I remember we would always have a problem with [the Spartans]. With his systems and the way they played we knew it was always going to be a tough game just based off the atmosphere.