LA CAÑADA —Fueled by potent second-half shooting and solid defense throughout, the La Cañada High girls’ basketball team defeated Pasadena Poly in the seventh-place game of the La Cañada Holiday Classic in the early afternoon on Monday.
The Spartans made 17 of 29 field goals in the second half, while holding the Panthers to 12 field goals for the game in a 56-36 victory for a La Cañada squad that finishes 2-2 in the tournament with its second win coming at the expense of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy last Thursday.
La Cañada’s senior forward Alyssa Miller made four of the team’s six three-pointers and finished with a team-high 16 points. Courtney Chen, who received all-tournament honors, did a fine job running the offense with 12 assists, and put together an all-around game with eight points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Offense came at a premium for both teams in the first half — one in which the Spartans took an 18-14 lead into the break on seven of 32 shooting. La Cañada Coach Tamar Hill made the necessary adjustments, however, and outscored the Panthers by 11 in the third.
“We had some easy layups that we just didn’t put in the hole,” said Hill, whose team has won four of its last six games for an overall record of 9-4. “We told the girls that Poly has some shooters and a post game, and if you let them hang around, it can be dangerous.
“In the second half, we stretched their bigs out of the paint, which opened up back-door layups, and then Alyssa Miller hit some shots,” the 14-year Spartans coach added. “Courtney Chen did a good job of running the high-set and finding the hot hand.”
Sarah Kurdoghlian’s three-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer, capped off a frame in which the Spartans made nine of 15 field goals and outscored Poly, 22-11, to stretch the 18-14 lead into a 40-25 cushion after 24 minutes of play.
“We kept it close in the first half, but they came out in the third quarter and blew us out,” Panthers Coach Kim Weber said. “Their shots were falling and ours weren’t.”
Kurdoghlian had the second highest scoring output for La Cañada with nine points. Haley Miller matched Chen with eight and Amber Graves added six.
Poly received 29 of its 36 points from Kiki Yang (16) and senior forward Kaitlyn Olah (13), who also garnered all-tournament honors.
Yang connected on four shots from behind the arc, including one in the early stages of the fourth quarter to cut La Cañada’s lead down to 44-30. The Spartans answered with two Kurdoghlian layups on a pair of assists by Chen and prompted a Poly timeout with 4:40 remaining in the game. The Panthers made another short run, highlighted by a three-point play from Olah that cut the deficit to 13. In the end, the lead proved insurmountable for a Panthers squad that finished the tournament 1-3.
Yang’s three-pointer in the first quarter was the only field goal for Poly in the opening frame and the team’s only points. They finished the half strong before succumbing to La Cañada in the second half.
La Cañada will host Notre Dame on Jan. 4, Oak Park on Jan. 7 and visit Schurr on Jan. 9 before the Rio Hondo League season begins with a home game against South Pasadena on the 15th. For the time being, Hill was pleased with her team in its latest win.
“We had a rough shooting night against Hart and battled back against a good Moorpark team in a game that came down to the fourth quarter,” she said. “Today, we executed better and finished strong in the second half.”