BURBANK — Nearly everything was going right for the La Cañada High girls’ basketball team in the second half of a tournament championship game against Thousand Oaks at Burroughs High on Saturday.
In the third quarter of the Silver Division championship of the Burroughs Tournament, the Spartans were making crucial three-point plays and defensive stops en rout to establishing a 12-point lead over the Lancers.
But in the final quarter, La Cañada nearly let the game slip away and gave Thousand Oaks the opportunity to climb back in a one-point contest.
La Cañada survived the late scare as the Spartans held off Thousand Oaks for a 52-51 victory to secure the title.
The Spartans defeated Village Christian, 45-31, in the division opener and Newbury Park, 45-34, in the semifinal round to book a spot in the championship.
The shorthanded La Cañada team was without senior guard Brooke Yasuda and sophomore forward Amanda Scoville
“We’re so young that the next step in our development is learning to know how to play with a lead and I think today we took a big step toward that, although we almost blew it at the end,” La Cañada coach Owen Keenan said. “In our game against Village Christian, we took a step up. We played really well and that’s the next step for a young team. We needed it tonight because our senior leader wasn’t here.”
The Spartans also lost tournament most valuable player Emmie Lew for much of the fourth quarter as the junior guard fouled out late early in the period.
“A lot of the girls are a lot younger, which makes it hard,” Lew said. “But a lot of the coaches were going up to them and making sure they were alright and telling them to keep their composure, but stay aggressive because we needed that in the fourth quarter.”
As the Lancers resorted to fouling late in the contest, La Cañada sealed the game with a crucial rebound courtesy of junior guard Morgan Tsujihara.on a late Thousand Oaks free throw
“We were just taking it minute-by-minute,” Tsujihara said. “We lost Emmie pretty early, which was pretty rough, but a lot of our players stepped it up and I think we did a good job in containing them and holding our ground.”
Lew finished the game with 13 points and Tsujihara added 10 points, six rebounds and six assists as the two were the only Spartans in double-figures in scoring.
La Cañada sophomore forward Lauren Scoville recorded 11 rebounds and four blocks.
“We’re a defensive team first,” said Keenan on the rebounds late in the game. “We’re a really good perimeter defense team and I wanted to keep everybody fresh.”
In a close game late in the first quarter, the score was tied at 6 before Thousand Oaks pulled away for an 11-6 lead with 1:41 left.
La Cañada scored two early three-point shots, but didn’t score another basket until there was 23 seconds left off another three-point finish from Tsujihara.
Spartans sophomore guard Alyssa Miyamoto tied it at 11 at the first-quarter buzzer.
The teams continued to battle early in the second quarter, as they tied the score three times before a Lancers three-pointer made it a 20-18 Thousand Oaks lead with 1:36 left in the half.
The Spartans clawed their way back to a one-point deficit as the Lancers entered halftime with a 22-21 advantage.
La Cañada stormed out of halftime with back-to-back layups to take a 25-23 lead at the 5:30 mark of the third-quarter — its first since the game’s opening minutes.
The Lancers pulled to within 29-27 with 3:43 left in the third, but the Spartans started to pull away on a pair of three-point plays to close out the quarter with a 38-31 lead.
“We were moving around a lot more and we were talking to each other, because a lot of the times we would just get too crowded in the center and nothing would work out,” Lew said.
The Spartans caught fire early in the final period with a 9-2 run on two three-point plays and a three-pointer from Lew for a 50-38 lead before she fouled out.
Thousand Oaks rallied back from the deficit on a 11-0 run to pull to within one, 50-49, as the Spartans went cold for three minutes in the final quarter.