MONROVIA — With double-digit victories already this season, there's no doubt that the La Cañada High boys basketball has the means to win a ton of ball games.
But if a team gets physical with them like Upland did Saturday night, the Spartans struggle.
“We just weren't physical enough,” said La Cañada Coach Tom Hofman. “We're very young and I think that showed. Every time we play a really physical team, we back down.”
Upland defeated La Cañada, 57-37, in the semifinals of the San Gabriel Valley Holiday Classic hosted by Monrovia High.
The Highlanders forced numerous Spartans’ turnovers, dominated on the glass and otherwise dictated play throughout the contest en route to going up by as many as 24 points. La Cañada struggled on offense, scoring just five points in the first quarter. The 37 points is the second-lowest output for the Spartans (10-3) this season and well below their average of 57.4 points per game this season.
“Almost non-existent,” La Cañada senior Dan Jun said when asked where the offense was against Upland (11-4). “They put a lot of pressure on us and we didn't execute like we wanted to.”
Jun led the Spartans with nine points, coming off a trio of three-point shots. KoKo Kurdoghlian added six points and three rebounds.
The Highlanders jumped out to a 13-5 lead after the first period and took a 27-16 advantage into halftime.
Down 15 midway through the third, Hofman called a time out and tried to instill a sense of urgency in his team. The Spartans responded to pull within eight points at 37-29, but couldn't sustain the surge.
“We're still young,” Hofman said. “All these games are good for us. We need to get a little more tougher and we need to depend on our offense, not one-on-one play. Way too much one-on-one. We need to get production from our offense.”
Upland's Deangelo Stowers led all scorers with 16 points to go with four rebounds. Marquis Reed added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Highlanders.
Jun reiterated his coach's sentiments that games like these are good for the younger players on the roster.
“It was a good test for us,” Jun said. “We have to get more physical. With so many young guys, it was a really good game for them to experience what varsity is really like.”
La Cañada plays in the third-place game of the San Gabriel Valley Holiday Classic at 6 p.m. on Monday.