Spartans strike a balance in playoff opener

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Offense has been an area of concern for the La Can¿ada High boys' basketball team this season.

That continued through the first half Friday when the Spartans hosted Garden Grove's Pacifica in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs.

La Can¿ada ended up putting together what Coach Tom Hofman referred to as one of its best offensive performances this season with a strong second half to pick up a 66-45 victory.

"This is what we were looking for all year, this was a good team victory," said Hofman, whose team scored 21 points in the first half and 45 in the second for a season-high 66 points. "We had a nice balance, everybody was contributing to the offense."

The entire starting five for the Spartans scored at least nine points with senior point guard Ryan Lee leading the way with 15. Darrell Dansby finished with 14, Conner Boyd scored 12, Tim Kim had 10 and Jay Srinivasan added nine.

"All week during practice we just worked on offense, a little bit on defense, but we really wanted to get our offense going because all season long our offense wasn't flowing and it seemed to flow today, so we'll try to keep it up," Lee said.

The win puts third-seeded La Cañada (17-10) in the quarterfinals Tuesday against Los Altos or fourth-seeded South Torrance.

Lee came out aggressive after getting to the gym early Friday for an extended shoot-around and provided the biggest lift for the Spartans, starting and finishing strong. He scored seven of his team's 11 points in the first quarter and dominated a three-minute stretch in the fourth.

The Spartans held a 47-39 lead with 5:35 to go in the game when Lee helped put it out of doubt by notching two assists and nailing a layup and three-pointer just before the shot clock expired to increase his team's lead to 57-39 with 2:52 remaining.

"It was such a close game the whole way, so being able to pull away late was just great," Lee said.

La Can¿ada went into the second quarter down, 14-11, as Pacifica's Zack Howe, who finished with a game-high 16 points, hit a layup with two seconds left in the first. But the Spartans built an 18-14 advantage by scoring the first four buckets of the second with Dansby capping the run with a fade-away jumper with 2:35 left in the half.

The home crowd got on its feet about a minute later when Srinivasan nailed a three-pointer to put his team up, 21-15, with a 1:27 left.

The Mariners (12-16) came back with a 7-0 run of their own, highlighted by a three-pointer from Howe, to tie the game at 21 going into the half.

La Can¿ada found itself in a world of foul trouble, as Boyd and Kim had both committed three fouls and Dansby had four with 4:43 to go in the third.

"We had to have everyone rotate on defense because we couldn't go for any blocks or anything because the refs were calling everything," said Boyd, who also had 12 rebounds off the bench for a double-double. "We couldn't risk anything because we were about to foul out."

Hofman said his team was overly aggressive early, bumping and reaching on defense, but settled down.

"We had serious foul trouble, but they smartened up a little bit and got a little more containment oriented," Hofman said.

The Spartans still managed to open a seven-point lead — the biggest of the game to that point — on back-to-back jumpers, a deep two from Daniel Jun and a three from Boyd for a 35-28 edge with 2:45 left in the third.

Pacifica's Brian Alvarez answered with a three, but La Can¿ada closed the third with a 44-34 advantage after Lee hit three of four throws coming off consecutive one-and-one chances in the final 38 seconds of the quarter.

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