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La Canada High girls' basketball avoids late collapse to San Marino

Courtney Chen scores La Canada Spartans' last six points to secure 48-41 victory over San Marino Titans.

February 05, 2013|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
  • La Canada's Aundrea Issakhanian, left, and Courtney Chen, right, play defense on San Marino's Tiffany Meihls in a 48-41 Spartans' victory.
La Canada's Aundrea Issakhanian, left, and Courtney… (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff…)

LA CAÑADA — Faced with an eight-point deficit late in the third quarter, the San Marino High girls' basketball team turned to its two seniors, Leigh Kunitake and Felita Salim, Thursday at La Cañada High.

When the Titans battled all the way back to take the lead early in the fourth, the Spartans not shockingly looked to junior Courtney Chen on senior night. The point guard finished with a team-high 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals and scored all six of La Cañada’s final points and all but four of its 13 fourth-quarter points to secure a 48-41 victory.

“That’s Courtney, Courtney really puts the team on her back and gets the ball in the hoop,” said La Cañada Coach Tamar Hill, whose team improved to 17-8, 8-1 in the Rio Hondo League to set up a winner-take-all showdown with South Pasadena Thursday.

While the Titans mounted a late rally to claim a lead in the final six-and-a-half minutes, San Marino Coach Kenny Fisher said the contest came down to rebounding. La Cañada held a 36-20 rebounding advantage over a much smaller visiting squad.

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“We just couldn’t rebound and they were beating us up on the boards,” said Fisher, whose team fell to 14-11, 5-4 in league. “We’d take bad shots, miss, get them to take tough shots, miss and they get the board, that’s the biggest thing.”

Still, San Marino closed the last minute of the third quarter on an 8-2 run to whittle what was once a 10-point deficit to two, 35-33, heading into the fourth.

“We didn’t make good decisions down the stretch, way too many turnovers,” said Hill, whose team had nine giveaways in the fourth quarter.

Tiffany Meihls sparked the run when she hit a jump shot from the corner with 57 seconds left in the quarter to cut La Cañada's lead to 33-27. The Titans then got consecutive three-pointers with 26 seconds left and at the buzzer from Kunitake (17 points) and Salim (nine points), respectively, to make it a two-point game, 35-33.

Salim put the Titans ahead, 36-35, for the first time since their 5-3 advantage 1:33 into the game when she hit another three with 6:21 to play in the game. La Cañada's Keilee Bessho (seven points, four rebounds) made sure the lead was short-lived again when she banked a short jumper off the glass 17 seconds later.

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