LA CAÑADA — The quest for another Rio Hondo League title is finally complete for the La Cañada High girls’ basketball team.
A goal the team set at its preseason meeting, the Spartans hosted Temple City on Saturday and a win would clinch the title outright for the hosts.
Though Temple City battled to tie the score midway in the second quarter, La Cañada regrouped for a 14-poimt run to close out the half and went on to win, 45-30, to secure its fourth consecutive Rio Hondo League title.
“This is what every single girl said and wanted to win league,” La Cañada first-year coach Owen Keenan said. “… We have to worry about the playoffs now. I think coming out of the Rio Hondo League, I hope we’re not rusty and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It just seems like we play [better] against the better teams.”
The Spartans (22-4, 7-0 in league) clinched the league title in convincing fashion yet again, and have yet to lose in league. La Cañada can finish off an undefeated league campaign win with a win Tuesday at San Marino.
La Cañada held Temple City (8-11, 3-3) to two points in the first quarter and closed out the first period with a 10-2 lead. The Rams got on the board with a pair of free throws at the 6:19 mark in the first, but couldn’t sink a field goal the entire quarter.
Temple City woke up in the second quarter, however, and outscored La Cañada, 8-2, to tie the score at 12 with 4:43 left.
The Spartans regrouped and scored on the next four of five three-point attempts to pull away for a 24-12 lead with 1:37 left in the half.
A 12-0 run, which stretched to 14-0 before halftime, was fueled on the backs of sophomores Bethany Co and Lauren Scoville and junior Emmie Lew. Co knocked down two threes and Scoville and Lew both sank one in a span of 2:10.
“I think maybe our defense could’ve improved a little bit,” said Lew about her team’s woes early in the second quarter. “We weren’t playing as tight and we were kind of lying back a little. We just capitalized more and started switching on screens, communicating with each other more. That was about it. It just started clicking.”
Scoville’s defensive effort on the Temple City end helped spark the transition game, as she posted two blocks in the quarter and four in the first half. The sophomore tallied eight points, 12 rebounds, six blocks and three steals.
“We really picked it up and we got a [rhythm],” Scoville said. “We were passing it really well, especially in the second quarter. Everyone was hitting their shots.”
Lew led the Spartans with 14 points with four three-pointers, three of which came in the third quarter. Co finished with 10 points.
“Usually, we’re a good second-half team,” Keenan said. “We haven’t started off well in the last few games, which is disturbing. But we talked about it at halftime, how defense is our calling card and we have to keep playing defense … In the second quarter, Temple City hit too many wide-open shots and too many threes, and we really shut them down in the third quarter.”
An 8-0 run that stretched midway into the third quarter set up a 34-16 lead for La Cañada, before the Spartans achieved an 8-1 run to end the quarter with a 42-23 lead.
However, the fourth quarter La Cañada struggled. The Spartans knocked down only one field goal on 15 attempts and didn’t score until there was 1:33 left.
After La Cañada scored 16 points in each of the second and third quarters, the Spartans only tallied three in the final quarter off a Maddy Tea’s three-point play.
“We had too many turnovers and I thought that we forced too many shots,” Keenan said. “We were just trying to not take time off the clock, which we usually do. We usually are a better fourth quarter team.
“Today was just one of those days where we had too many outside distractions. I think they wanted [Brooke Yasuda] to have a good game and they were forcing it to her and she was forcing it, too. But I’m just happy with the win.”
The hosts clinched the title outright on the day the Spartans honored Yasuda, a four-year senior guard.