Spartans pull out another nailbiter

La Cañada High boys' basketball Coach Tom Hofman wasn't sure how much his team had left in the tank, coming off four emotional wins in a row, including a victory against Price a week earlier that earned the Spartans their first CIF Southern Section championship in 19 years.

La Cañada proved it wasn’t close to running on empty with a 43-42 win over Crespi at home in the second round of the CIF State Division III Southern California Regional on Thursday.

“There’s so much emotion, and I give these guys a lot of credit,” Hofman said. “After winning the [CIF Southern Section Division III-AA] championship against Price, I didn’t know how much we had left. We could have folded. Our goal was to try to get to a CIF finals again and win it again, and we did — our first in 19 years.”

The Spartans (29-3) rewrote what has been a familiar storyline again on Thursday: a tough defensive game that comes all the way down to the wire before La Cañada pulls it out in front of a packed house that mobs the court at the final buzzer.

Mike McGlashan and Matt Faber were the No. 1 Spartans’ difference-makers the entire game. McGlashan scored a team-high 18 points and Faber put together another double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, with his biggest buckets coming late in the game.

With 17 seconds left in the third quarter, Faber went to the free-throw line with his team down, 32-31. The gym groaned as he missed both free throws, and just as quickly erupted as he grabbed his second miss off the rim and put it back in, giving La Cañada a 33-32 edge.

“I’m basically just trying to be the third option for our team,” Faber said. “It’s usually just Mikey [McGlashan] and Dario CiVon scoring, and I just get the rebounds. But starting CIF we needed that third option. When our offense is kind of low I can pick it up.”

Faber lifted the Spartans again in the fourth quarter, dealing a crushing blow to the Celts (24-9). He took the ball at the baseline on a bounce pass from McGlashan and dunked it home, while picking up the foul. This time he sank the free throw, giving La Cañada a late 35-32 lead.

“I’ve had seven dunks before. This one probably felt the best, though,” Faber said.
It was CiVon and Mason Holle, two players who hadn't scored the entire game, who came up big in the clutch, knocking down a three-pointer apiece with the game tied in the final minutes.
CiVon snapped a 7-0 Crespi run, hitting a three-point bucket with four minutes left in the game, giving his team a 40-37 lead.

Crespi knotted the game up at 40 with 2:31 left. Then, it was Holle's time to shine. He sank a three-pointer with about two minutes left, giving La Cañada a 43-40 advantage. It was just Holle’s second shot of the night.

“On this team, when I have open shots I look to knock them down,” said Holle, whose role on the team is a distributor and defensive stopper. “I do my best to facilitate and get these knock-down shooters the ball. That’s how we’ve been winning all year.”

The Celts brought the game back to 43-42 with 1:45 left. Crespi called timeout with four seconds left and one last chance to win. But Crespi’s Matt Mounier barely hit the backboard with a three-point shot off the inbounds play.

“I wanted to get this win to prove that La Cañada is for real,” Holle said. “We deserved this No. 1 seed and we deserved that championship. We aren’t anything to take lightly.”

The win puts the Spartans against Inglewood at home at 7 p.m. on Saturday. 

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