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La Cañada High girls' basketball rallies late for comeback win

Basketball: Spartans force 21 second-half turnovers in defeating San Luis Obispo, 44-42, in second round of playoffs.

February 23, 2014|By Andrew J. Campa, andrew.campa@latimes.com

LA CAÑADA — Down by 14 points after one quarter and 13 at the half against a team that was shooting lights out, the odds against the La Cañada High girls’ basketball squad making Saturday evening’s CIF Southern Section Division III-A second round playoff game competitive seemed pretty long.

Yet, not only did the host Spartans rally, but they salvaged their season thanks to several key offensive rebounds and a gutsy and gambling defense that produced 21 second-half turnovers, which helped turned a frantic comeback into a thrilling 44-42 victory.

“The funny thing is that everything we did in the second half was the game plan in the first half,” La Cañada Coach Tamar Hill said. “There were zero adjustments made other than we executed the defense better.”

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With the victory, the Rio Hondo League champion Spartans (22-5), the divisional third seed, earned advancement to Wednesday’s quarterfinals at home at 7 p.m. versus Tri-Valley League runner-up Oak Park (18-10), the sixth seed.

Despite leading by four points with a little over two minutes remaining, the Spartans saw San Luis Obispo (13-11) rally and tie the contest at 42 with a four-foot shot from Alexi Nazarian (11 points) with 1:10 remaining.

The basket, which seemed to breathe life into a reeling Tigers squad, was immediately countered by a slashing drive and layup from senior guard Courtney Chen with 59.7 seconds remaining, which gave the Spartans a 44-42 lead.

San Luis Obispo tried to bounce back and had two solid looks from junior forward Natalia Demartini (10 points), who missed a 16-foot jumper with 44 seconds left and then a running 10-footer with 12 seconds left as Demartini became tied up with La Cañada’s Keilee Beesho on the rebound.

The jump-ball possession was awarded to La Cañada and Chen was fouled with 8.8 seconds left.

Even though Chen missed the two free throws, the Spartans caught a break when Demartini rebounded the ball, but lost her balance and traveled with 6.1 seconds left. La Cañada then ran out the clock.

“We just go fired up at halftime after we were down,” said Chen, who finished with 14 points and six steals. “We couldn’t be one and done, we had to fight back and we did.”

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