PASADENA — A feverish third-quarter rally from the Pasadena Poly girls' basketball team did not produce a frantic fourth-quarter comeback.
That’s because it appeared the Panthers expended all their energy in rebounding from a 15-point deficit in eventually falling, 54-35, to visiting ninth-seeded Fullerton Rosary in Thursday evening’s first round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs.
“We’re playing against a team from a nationally-ranked league. Their record or league record does not indicate how good they are,” Pasadena Poly Coach Kim Weber Hall said. “We’re playing in a division that has nationally-ranked teams and we deserve to be there. Today, we were competitive up until three minutes left.”
Rosary (15-11), a Trinity League at-large entry, led, 39-33, after three quarters and immediately upped its advantage after a three-pointer from sophomore Emily Arellanes 23 seconds into the fourth quarter.
The triple was the first of seven straight points for the Royals, who led, 46-33, after a free throw from Rachel Pau’u with 4:24 remaining.
Poly finally scored its first basket of the fourth with 3:59 remaining on a 14-foot jumper from senior guard Rachel Hoang (eight points) to cut the lead to 46-35.
Yet, the basket was the final for the Panthers as they committed seven fourth-quarter turnovers and were outscored, 8-0, the rest of the way.
“I just think we ran out of gas or out of fuel,” Weber Hall said. “I’m proud of the girls for coming back in the third quarter, but it was clear that we were tired.”
The Panthers trailed, 30-17, to start the second half and saw that gap grow to 15 after a running layup from Pau’u with 7:28 remaining in the third.
Poly responded with a three from Kiki Yang and inside buckets from senior Catherine Lehman (10 points and seven rebounds) and junior forward Kaitlyn Olah to climb within 32-24 with 4:40 remaining.
While Rosary pushed its advantage back up to 37-26 at 3:38 in the third, Poly again countered with a three-pointer from Yang, a jumper from Hoang created off a steal from Yang and a four-footer from Lehman with 1:54 to narrow the deficit to 37-33.
“We just played like we had nothing to lose. I’m really proud of my team,” said Yang, who led the Panthers with 12 points, nine rebounds and five steals. “In the third quarter we really played hard, but just couldn’t pull it out.”
Rosary took back some momentum before the end of the quarter on an offensive rebound and put back from Kristina Ybarra with 1:31 left that gave the Royals a six-point lead at the end of the third.
Perhaps the most telling statistic from the third quarter was the turnover margin, as the Panthers committed four turnovers versus three for the Royals.
In every other quarter, Poly committed five or more turnovers in finishing with a total of 25, with the vast majority due to an array of press defenses from Rosary that caused havoc.
“Our defense is our key for everything, we’ve got to play great defense. One of the things we do is press in different forms with different matchups,” Rosary Coach Richard Yoon said. “The big thing was containing [Yang]. She was great tonight and we had to do everything we could to get the ball out of her hands.”
Rosary’s Samantha Hernandez led all scorers with 19 points.