SAN MARINO — Senior night can add pressure to a team, as was the case Friday night when the San Marino High boys' basketball team hosted La Cañada in its final home game of the regular season.
The Spartans felt more pressure than the Titans early and struggled through the first half before rebounding in the fourth quarter to blow a close game through three quarters open in a 52-37 win.
"In the first half we played good defense, but missed a lot of layups," La Cañada Coach Tom Hofman said. "I told them to stick with it and stay confident [at halftime]."
La Cañada senior center Conner Boyd chalked his team's slow start up to nerves.
"I think it was partially the home crowd and the fact that it was senior night and the crowd was against us," said Boyd, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. "I think we were a bit nervous."
The Titans didn't deal well with their nerves late, San Marino Coach Mihail Papadopulos said.
"I think we got a little anxious and the boys are trying to make plays and we make mistakes," he said. "La Cañada and South Pas will make you pay for those mistakes, that's what good league teams do."
La Cañada (14-10, 6-2 in league) took an 11-2 lead in the first quarter behind three consecutive three-pointers for Jay Srinivasan (12 points), but the Titans brought the score to 14-9 at the end of the first with a 7-3 run.
Both offenses struggled in the second, scoring a combined 11 points in the quarter, but the Spartans carried a 19-17 edge into the half after being unable to build a sizable lead after missing numerous layups.
"I told them at halftime to shoot to make it, not shoot to miss," Hofman said. "I think we were shooting thinking, 'Don't miss, don't miss.'"
The message clicked in the fourth quarter.
Holding on to a six-point lead entering the final eight minutes, the Spartans got a quick lift and 7-0 run from Boyd and Darrell Dansby to start the quarter.
Boyd threw in an easy bucket off a Dansby pass to give the Spartans a 37-29 edge two minutes into the fourth. Dansby converted an and-one opportunity off a steal he forced about 30 seconds later and Boyd dropped in another layup to give La Cañada a 42-29 lead and force a San Marino timeout with 4:36 remaining.
"It was just us driving the ball better and finishing our layups because Tim and I were maybe one for 12 in the first half," said Boyd, crediting Hofman's halftime speech for the turnaround. "In the second half, we actually went up strong and finished our layups."
Max Taw, who finished with a game-high 14 points, hit a tough layup for San Marino on the ensuing possession, but the Titans couldn't get their offense on track from there, as they didn't score again until Taw hit two free throws to bring the score to 44-33 with 2:01 left.
San Marino's hopes of a comeback were dashed at the line as La Cañada's Ryan Lee made all six of his free throws down the stretch to help deliver the victory.
"It's tough because it puts a damper on the night," Papadopulos said. "Tonight was a special night for our seniors. I am really proud of their effort, but at the end of the day it's how many mistakes we make against how many they make."