PASADENA — Sometimes on the basketball court it is not just execution or athletic ability that makes the difference. Sometimes it is just about intensity.
That was the case in the Pacific League boys’ basketball game between visiting Hoover High and Muir.
“Intensity. That’s it,” Muir Coach Simaine Stewart said. “Like I tell my guys every day, it is not about what the other team does. It is about what we do.”
Muir (9-8, 2-1) led by seven points after two quarters before outscoring Hoover, ranked No. 13 in CIF-Southern Section Division III-AA, 24-7, in the third to seize control and turn the fourth quarter into little more than a formality.
“Collectively as a unit, I think everyone picked their intensity up,” Stewart said. “Then once you get a steal, you get another steal, it kind of has a snowball effect.”
The Mustangs, ranked No. 16 in CIF-Southern Section 4-AA, opened the third quarter with a 12-0 scoring burst before Hoover’s Teo Davidian hit one of two free throws at the 5:00 mark for the visitors’ first points after halftime. However, that barely slowed the Mustangs, who then scored the next 10 points, ballooning their advantage to 28 before bringing in the bench to finish the frame.
In the fourth quarter, the Muir lead peaked at 31 with 1:35 left on two free throws by sophomore Andrew Lopez. After that, Davidian scored the last five points of the game for Hoover (8-7, 0-3). It gave the junior 10 points in the quarter and a team-high 19 points for the game. No other Tornado reached double-digits.
“We didn’t follow the game plan the entire time,” Hoover coach Jack Van Patten said. “We had to play catch-up. We’re selling out trying to get steals and that exasperates it. [Muir] is a good team.”
The game’s leading scorer was Muir’s Dejon Williams, who poured in 21 points, including nine in the first quarter. The 6-foot-5 senior duo of Taturs Mayberry and Jelani Mitchell, still recovering from a recent leg injury, joined Williams in double-digits with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
“I think my legs are getting a lot better,” Mitchell, the reigning league MVP, said. “Feeling a lot better, right now it is a little sore and I’ll go home and ice it, but I’m feeling good.”
Mayberry scored all of his points in the first three quarters, including a team-high eight in the pivotal third.
“We’ve got to keep up the intensity and bring it every night, “ Mayberry said.
Muir senior Evan Bynum, who had eight points and seven assists, helped get the Mustangs off to a strong start with two early steals in the first quarter. The first came in the backcourt and he converted it into a layup. The second he turned into an assist on a pass to Williams, who sunk the three to give Muir an early 5-0 advantage. Bynum, a transfer from Marshall Fundamental, also had another backcourt steal and lay-in as the first quarter came to an end to give his team a slim 22-20 advantage after one.
Hoover stayed in the game early with the long ball. The Tornadoes went four of five in the first quarter from behind the three-point line. Ryan Barseghian then connected on Hoover’s second long-distance shot of the second quarter. The three-pointer, coming almost halfway through the period, gave the Tornadoes their only lead of the contest at 27-26. However, Mayberry quickly answered at the other end for Muir with an offensive rebound and put-back to take back the lead for good. After the Barseghian triple, the Tornadoes did not hit another three-pointer until the final shot of the game, including going 0 of nine in the third quarter.
“I did make an adjustment on how to guard the three,” Stewart said. “We shaded high on the three and didn’t worry about the backdoor as much because [Hoover] wasn’t doing the backdoor that much. We felt like with our quickness we could get to that play. Then I think with us pressuring the ball they didn’t even get a lot of attempts. I think with that it kind of demoralized them a bit.”