LA CANADA — In need of a win to remain a top contender for the Rio Hondo League girls' basketball title, South Pasadena played some of its best basketball at La Canada High Wednesday night.
The Tigers' defense shut down the Spartans, holding the home team scoreless for nearly 12 minutes in a span that included all of the second quarter and nearly half of the third en route to a 52-27 win.
It was a statement game for the Tigers, who fell to San Marino at home last week, 48-47, on a last-second shot.
The win puts South Pasadena (16-4, 4-1 in league), La Cañada (13-8, 4-1) and San Marino in a three-way tie for first place in league, assuming the Titans (12-8, 3-1) defeated Monrovia Wednesday.
The Tigers put together a balanced offensive attack with Lexie Scholtz scoring a team-high 19 points. Kristen Kafkaloff (10 points) hit double-digit scoring for South Pas, which also had nine points from Elise Takahama and six points each from Amber Partida and Sophia Hathaway.
“It really helps us being able to have multiple players who score,” Scholtz said. “It's not just one person, we play as a team.”
The Spartans had a chance to put themselves in the driver's seat and win their eighth straight game Wednesday after handling the Titans, 54-39, on the road Friday, but ran into a stout Tigers defense.
“We were just one step behind today,” La Cañada Coach Tamar Hill said. “We'll bounce back and hopefully this puts a little fire in their belly.”
South Pasadena took a 19-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, but widened that gap to 18, 28-10, when it kept La Cañada off the board the entire second frame. The Spartans saw the deficit widen to 26 points, as it took them nearly four minutes to log a point in the third quarter.
“We worked a lot on [defense] this week – stopping the pick and roll, hedging hard, keeping our man in front of us and not letting them get easy hoops at the basket,” Lai said.
It was La Cañada's Courtney Chen who stopped the dominating run South Pasadena was on when she made a pair of free throws to bring the score to 36-12 with 4:15 to go in the third. The junior hit a three-pointer about 45 seconds later to cut the score to 36-15.
The Spartans relied far too heavily on their star point guard in the game, as she scored 23 points in the loss.
“They wanted it more tonight and we showed up flat,” Hill said. “You can't win when one person gives you 23 and the rest of the team gives you four.”
Still, Chen managed to bring the Spartans back in contention, as she nearly single-handedly led them on a 14-0 run that started with her free throws and three-pointer and stretched into the final frame.
South Pasadena committed seven turnovers in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, which allowed Chen to inspire a sliver of hope on La Cañada's bench. She scored four points – all from the free-throw line – in the first 43 seconds of the fourth and added a three-pointer with 6:02 to bring the score to 36-24.
Lai called a timeout, which allowed South Pasadena to regroup. The Tigers logged the next four points on a Partida floater and two free throws from Scholtz, who had eight points in the final eight minutes, to go up 40-24 with 3:12 to play.