LA CAÑADA — Behind a strong second-quarter effort, the La Cañada High girls’ basketball team not only opened their own holiday classic tournament with a victory, but it did so at the expense of a crosstown rival.
By holding visiting Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy to one field goal in the second quarter, the Spartans established a sizable halftime lead and never looked back in a 61-44 victory in pool play action on Thursday afternoon.
PHOTOS: La Cañada vs. FSHA tournament girls' basketball
With the win, La Cañada (8-2) will face Hart (5-5) at 7 p.m. on Friday in pool play activity, while the Tologs (5-5) are in the preceding game at 5:30 versus Moorpark (9-2).
“We looked like we were passing well, moving well and finishing well at times,” Spartans Coach Tamar Hill said. “But then there were other times where it looked like the day after Christmas, where you have four days off and are rusty. But [there is] nothing like these tournament to shake off the rust.”
The Spartans led, 16-12, after one quarter, but both squads appeared to be in a holiday funk as they combined to start zero for 13 on field goal tries.
The first actual points scored in the second came off two free throws from Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Jenna Tran, who led all scorers with 21 points and eight rebounds, with 4:09 remaining in the quarter.
Unfortunately for Flintridge Sacred Heart, the two points would stand as the team’s only offense in the quarter until the final second of the first half.
In the meanwhile, the Spartans answered back with a slashing layup from sophomore guard Sarah Kurdoghlian (nine points and seven rebounds) at the 3:58 mark to extend La Cañada’s lead to 18-14.
The bucket keyed a 14-0 run capped by a free throw from Kurdoghlian with 1:04 remaining, which gave La Cañada a commanding 30-14 advantage.
“I think we just did a lot of helping the helper defense, which we’ve been working on a lot,” said Spartans junior guard Keilee Bessho, who led her squad with 12 points and two steals. “We’ve been working on our man defense. Coach Hill stresses that a lot. We just came together and helped each other a lot.”
The Tologs snapped a 4-minute-8-second scoring drought and a 10:19 span between field goals when Kelly Fradet (nine points) connected on a last-second layup before the buzzer to close a quarter in which the Tologs shot one for 12 from the field, committed four turnovers and were outscored, 14-4.
“If I knew what happens to us in second quarters this year, I would have fixed it,” Tologs Coach Ty Buxman said when trying to explain what happened. “I don’t know what to say. This is the second game in a row where we had a bad second quarter. We have to figure out how to keep that intensity going.”
Up 14 at the half, the Spartans never allowed the Tologs to cut the deficit any closer than 12 points, as both teams scored 15 points in the third quarter, while La Cañada won the fourth quarter, 16-13.
Other than Bessho, the Spartans received double-digit scoring efforts from Courtney Chen and Aundrea Issakhanian, who tallied 11 points a piece, while Amber Graves added eight points.