Mike McGlashan looks completely calm, undaunted by the pressure, when he's got the ball in his hands and the game is on the line.
The 18-year-old senior shooting guard and star of the La Cañada High boys' basketball team chalks it up his calm demeanor to good acting.
"[The pressure] really does have an impact on me, but the biggest thing is showing that you're calm, because the minute [teammate] Mason [Holle] or I start acting out and getting out of control, the rest of the team falls along. The biggest thing is no matter how scared, how much pressure you're under — you've got to stay cool," McGlashan said.
Down two points against Palm Springs in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs Feb. 25, the Spartans needed McGlashan to do more than just act. He went to the line and hit only one of two free throws. He felt he should have sunk both.
"I definitely blew it. I let [the pressure] get to me and the fans get in my head," said McGlashan about missing the first free throw.
He had a chance to redeem himself seconds later and did just that. He drove into the key and hit a running lay-up that gave La Cañada a one-point victory and a trip to the championship game against Price.
Spartans Coach Tom Hofman has said all season long that clutch performances like that are to be expected from McGlashan. He averaged a team-high 17.1 points in the regular season, while posting 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and two steals.
Although McGlashan has been the Spartans' most prolific scorer this season, he's the first one to push the spotlight off himself and onto his team.
"I don't think my play put us here, personally," McGlashan said. "The whole team stepped it up. [Matt] Faber stepped up huge in the playoffs and hit some big shots, along with Mason [Holle] and Riley [Moore]."
He points to the game against Price as an example. McGlashan had 14 points, while Faber and Dario CiVon finished with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
"It takes a lot of pressure off me," McGlashan said. "People tell me I need to score, but I really don't."
Team chemistry was a huge factor in the Spartans' success this season, McGlashan said. Nearly all of the squad's seniors have been playing together at La Cañada since freshman year after growing up in the city and competing against one another in a community basketball league.
"We're all friends — we all went to elementary school together — and it gives you a huge advantage. We aren't coming together for just one year and trying to play together; we've been playing together our whole lives," McGlashan said.
As freshmen, the group went undefeated (24-0). The Spartans knew a run at the title was more than possible once everyone was reunited for their senior seasons.
"When the brackets came out and we looked at the other teams, and looked at ourselves, we saw it really was possible. It wasn't going to be easy — there were some great teams, like Price — but there was always a chance we could be playing in the finals," McGlashan said.
Hofman praised his team's chemistry after its win against Price.
"I told anyone who'd listen that, if we got some chemistry early, we'd be a very good team," Hofman said. "We became very single-minded during the season. They played together and they played hard."
McGlashan is so effective because he can take on whatever offensive role the opposing defenses afford him in a given game. He can fill it up if they play off him or distribute if they zero in on him, thanks to the trust he has in his teammates.
"If they're going to give me the lane and a shot, I'm definitely going to take it," McGlashan said. "If I drive and they fill it up, I just dish it to Matt Faber, Dario or one of our shooters who've been making shots all year long."