LA CAÑADA —The Rio Hondo League-champion boys’ basketball team from La Cañada High came out a little tight in its first-round CIF-Southern Section Division III-A playoff win, leading to some early misses from long distance.
In the Spartans’ second-round matchup Friday night hosting Lompoc, it could not have been more different. La Cañada rained three-point baskets down on the visiting Braves early and often, then never let up on the long-distance barrage, resulting in a 87-51 win.
“They did a nice job. It was the exact opposite of the first game,” La Cañada Coach Tom Hofman said. “More calm, more composed.”
La Cañada (22-6), the No. 3 seed in the tournament, connected on 21 successful shots from beyond the arc with seven Spartans draining at least one three-pointer.
The Spartans came out firing, scoring the first nine points of the game on three makes from long distance, leading to a Lompoc (15-9) timeout with 5:05 to go trailing, 9-0. The Spartans hit seven of 10 from three-point land in the first and in one stretch drained threes on six consecutive trips down the floor.
“They took good shots and they went in today,” Hofman said.
Spartan Ko Ko Kurdoghlian led the way in the first, after which La Cañada led, 26-8, with three long-distance makes and 11 points overall. For the game, the sophomore had six three-pointers as part of his game-high 23 points.
“We took better shots. We were ready for the shots. We weren’t nervous,” Kurdoghlian said of Friday’s win versus the first-round victory.
Fellow sophomore Grant Arthur followed with five three-pointers, including two in the first and two in a row to open the third quarter, to account for all 15 of his points.
“It was just awesome,” Arthur said of his team’s long-distance accuracy. “We were all just playing really well. It was great.”
Although the Spartans shooting came back to earth in the second quarter, both Kurdoghlian and Arthur hit a three in the period, as did Ben Choi. The sophomore came off the bench to lead his team in scoring in the second, tallying all five of his points in the frame.
Joining Arthur and Kurdoghlian in double digits were senior guards Kevin Depriest and Dan Jun, who scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. Jun, who excelled on defense disrupting the ball, accounted for three makes from beyond the arc, including two in the first-quarter salvo.
It was a bizarre third quarter in which the Spartans were whistled for an avalanche of fouls, often on plays that saw them play strong fundamental defense. La Cañada amassed nine fouls in the first 4:32 of the quarter and Lompoc was soon after in the double bonus.
“Honestly, I couldn’t believe they were calling all those fouls,” Kurdoghlian said. “Most of them we had our hands up and were playing good defense.”
This allowed the Braves to score 23 in the quarter, led by Bertrand Taylor, who used his bulk and the eager whistles to get 14 of his 20 points in the quarter. Lompoc was led in scoring by guard Torey Sims with 21.
“It was kind of crazy. It’s a good thing we had a big lead,” Hofman, whose team won the third quarter, 25-23, said.
After making 10 three-pointers in the first half, La Cañada made 11 in the second half. Depriest, who came off the bench, led the way after the break, hitting two threes in both the third and fourth quarters.
In the final quarter, the Spartans, who had 11 players score at least one point, got the entirety of their bench into the game to see some action. In the final frame, sophomore Evan Ohannessian scored all seven of his points, including one of his team’s 21 from long distance. The final three of the contest came on a successful shot from the corner by senior Jon Lee.
Next for the Spartans, who have now won 10 games in a row, will be a road contest against No. 6-seed Pioneer to take place on Tuesday in Whittier.
“We need to focus and not get nervous,” Arthur said. “I know a lot of us, especially me, get nervous sometimes. We’ve just got to focus on what we are doing and we’ll play well and we’ll be able to go far, hopefully.”