Spartans on to regional championship

Tom Hofman has seen a lot of things in his two-and-a-half decades coaching the La Cañada High boys’ basketball team, but he’s never seen anything like this.

The Spartans kept their season alive in the CIF State Division III Southern California Regional playoffs last week, defeating Crespi, 43-42, in the second round on March 10. They also defeated Inglewood, 60-50, in the Southern California semifinals Saturday at home.

Hofman gathered his team in the locker room after the game to tell them they’re in the middle of the greatest postseason run he’s ever seen, and everyone has had a hand in it.

Hearing that is great, but there’s no time to sit back and reflect on that now, said La Cañada’s Mike McGlashan.

“Being in it right now, it’s hard to even have any feelings about it,” said McGlashan, whose team is the top seed. “When we look back on it we will be able to say, ‘Wow, what a run.’ Right now we got to keep playing and keep winning — we have to make it the best ever.”

That run will continue this week. The Spartans will face La Verne Lutheran, the division’s No. 3 seed, at noon Saturday at USC’s Galen Center. A win would put La Cañada into the state-championship game.

McGlashan scored a team-high 18 points and Matt Faber put together another double-double, 13 points and 13 rebounds, against Crespi (24-9), but it was Dario CiVon and Mason Holle who contributed in the clutch.

Both CiVon and Holle entered the fourth quarter scoreless, before hitting a big three-pointer each to will their team to victory. 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 and it was Holle's time to shine. He sank a three-pointer with about two minutes left, giving La Cañada (30-3) 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, who plays the role of distributor and defensive stopper on the team. “I do my best to facilitate and get these knock-down shooters the ball. That’s how we’ve been winning all year.”

Riley Moore, La Cañada’s sixth man, shined in the fourth quarter against Inglewood (26-8) on Saturday. Entering the final eight minutes of play, the Spartans were down, 42-40. But Moore quickly put them back on top, 43-42, with an open three-pointer from the corner.

La Cañada ended up going on an 11-0 run in the middle of the final quarter to give it a 56-47 lead with just over a minute left in the game. Mike McGlashan took over the game in the final quarter, scoring six of his 20 points in the 11-point run.

It was Moore who put the game out of reach though, sinking another wide-open three from the corner with 1:30 left, to give La Cañada a commanding, 54-47, lead.

Moore came into the fourth quarter with just two points, but he finished the game with 10 points and three rebounds.

“It’s probably the best fourth quarter we’ve played all year,” Hofman said. “This was a true team game for us.”

Ironically enough, Moore almost didn’t have a chance to hit his second three-pointer. With six minutes left in regulation, Holle took a seat after picking up his fourth foul on Inglewood’s Julius Bilbrew, a tough defensive assignment who’d been scorching La Cañada all game. Bibrew scored 25 points in the first three quarters.

Substitutions got jumbled and La Cañada nearly got called for too many men on the court before La Cañada’s Charles Kim just got off the floor in time. When he got back to the bench, Hofman told him to check back in to guard Bilbrew.

“I was looking to get a little more physical,” Hofman said. “Charles is probably our best defender and [Bilbrew] was hurting us.”

Moore guarded Bilbrew on the next possession, forcing him into a tough, contested jumper that was off the mark. Hofman quickly recanted, telling Kim to take a seat on the bench.

“Riley did a pretty good on [Bilbrew], so I said let’s go one more time,” Hofman said.

It turned out to be the right move. Bilbrew scored only once more the rest of the game, finishing with a game-high 28 points. Moore also hit two free throws with 21 seconds left, giving La Cañada an insurmountable, 58-50, lead.

Moore said he was happy he got to stay out on the floor after hearing about the near substitution. When the game was over, he was being hoisted over the heads of the La Cañada fans, like a clip out of “Rudy.”

“I can’t even explain [how good it feels]. I get so hyped with the fans, I love it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Moore said.

CiVon and Faber both scored 14 points in the win over Inglewood.

Having so many players who can contribute, especially in the clutch, has been integral to La Cañada’s success, McGlashan said.

“It’s huge because if one person is having an off night someone can take their place,” McGlashan said. “That’s the reason why we’re here. People are stepping up and playing good defense. If they weren’t stepping up we wouldn’t be here.”

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