La Cañada girls’ basketball powers past Hart in tournament pool play

LA CAÑADA — Encouragement goes a long way, especially when you’re in a scoring mood.

In the second game of Pool B play in the 12th Annual La Cañada New Year’s Ball Tournament, the La Cañada High girls’ basketball team’s bench was shouting for their senior captain Brooke Yasuda to take every shot against Hart.

The senior finished 10 of 14 shooting for 26 points, 13 of which came in the second period, and La Cañada made it two consecutive tournament victories with a 74-38 win against Hart on Thursday.

“She was our leader tonight,” La Cañada coach Owen Keenan said. “I really liked that everyone was encouraging her to shoot on the bench. They were going crazy for her.”

Despite not scoring from the field as the Spartans (13-3) slightly slumped in the third quarter, Yasuda scored six points in the first and final quarters and tallied five three-pointers — three in the second quarter.

“That [leadership] role is fun when we all play well together,” Yasuda said. “That got me fired up because we were working together passing the ball. The movement was really good today. We’re a pretty young team, but we really played well together today and that made me want to play well.”

Along with Yasuda, two other Spartans finished in double-digit scoring. Junior guard Emmie Lew and sophomore guard Bethany Co each finished with 15 points.

The La Cañada offense funneled through its defense, especially in the second quarter where a handful of blocks contributed to Yasuda’s 13 points and Co’s seven.

But the Spartans defense deflated at the start of the second half as Hart junior Emma Allen sliced through the La Cañada lead.

“I think [when] we block a couple of shots, we all of a sudden think we can block every shot,” said Keenan, whose Spartans tallied five blocks in the second quarter. “So we just have to realize that a blocked shot is someone else not playing defense. That’s how we got back into it.

“And we made a switch. We switched back off [Hart guard Emma Allen]. We put Emmie back on Allen and she shut her down.”

Allen scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Spartans narrowly outscored the Indians, 17-16, in the period.

“We knew [Allen] was a shooter, so point No. 1 was to stop her and the control the boards,” Keenan said. “We know the shots, we have good shooters. Eventually they’re going to fall and someone’s going to hit them. Tonight, a lot of them hit them.”

It was an ideal start for the Spartans with the hosts scoring 10 unanswered points to start the game.

The Indians (1-11) scored their first basket midway in the first quarter off of a three-point shot, but the Spartans were unfazed and kept a 17-5 lead at the end of the frame.

After a pair of free throws from Co, Yasuda took over in the second quarter, starting with a basket down the lane to put the Spartans up, 21-7.

Co drained a three-pointer 30 seconds later, before Yasuda hit back-to-back threes to lift the Spartans to a 27-7 lead with 4:10 left in the half.

To top it off, Yasuda drained a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Spartans a 37-13 lead.

Spartans forward Amanda Scoville and Lew both tallied a pair of blocks in the second quarter. Scoville ended with seven blocks and Lew recorded four steals.

La Cañada went scoreless for three minutes before Co hit a three-point shot midway into the third quarter to make it a 41-17 lead before Allen hit her scoring groove for Hart.

The Spartans regrouped in the final minute of the third to pull ahead, 54-29, at the end of the frame.

A three-pointer at the 5:35 mark from Yasuda made it 64-34 La Cañada before she capped her scoring run with another three two minutes later.

Twitter: @ReporterVince