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La Cañada High girls' basketball sees season end in semifinals

Basketball: Spartans claw back into contention, but still fall by double-digits to St. Joseph in semis.

February 24, 2013|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

LAKEWOOD — Tension began building in the St. Joseph High gym after what appeared to be an easy double-digit victory for the Jesters girls’ basketball team heading into the fourth quarter was cast in serious doubt by La Cañada High.

Down by 14 heading into the fourth quarter, it appeared the Spartans were out of hope on the road in the CIF Southern Section Division III-A semifinals Saturday. For one of the first times all night, La Cañada began to click offensively, while simultaneously getting stops on defense.

Just when the third-seeded Spartans had plenty of reason to believe in a comeback, cutting their deficit to six with three-and-a-half minutes left, their major downfalll of the night reared its ugly head — turnovers.

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It was the 20 turnovers La Cañada was guilty of Saturday that led to its ultimate demise and ended its hopes of a CIF title in a 50-40 loss to No. 7 St. Joseph.

“Oh my gosh, turnovers, it was just amazing,” La Cañada Coach Tamar Hill said. “It was turnovers with no pressure and missing free throws.

“Our whole halftime mantra was, ‘You need to keep the ball in order to score.’ I wish I knew what was going through a 15-year-old’s head when they throw a ball out of bounds, but they’re just kids. They worked really hard and came really far.”

While the Spartans (20-9) opened the fourth quarter with a 10-2 run to turn a daunting 40-26 deficit at the end of the third quarter to a manageable 42-36 gap, it likely should’ve been closer.

Courtney Chen struggled through the first 24 minutes, but came alive in the fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 16 points after scoring six in the first half.

“They did a good job containing Courtney. They obviously did their homework and they knew they had to put pressure on her and stop her,” Hill said. “We just needed that one other person to step up and unfortunately we didn’t have that tonight.”

St. Joseph’s Michele Pennala scored the first field goal of the final frame on a layup, but Chen sparked a 6-0 Spartans run in about a minute.

The junior point guard drew a foul with 6:47 left in the game and sank both free throws. Chen then added a layup with 5:44 to go to bring La Cañada within 10, 42-32, after a pair of Sarah Borland free throws.

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