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La Cañada High girls' basketball turns around in second half, prevails in quarterfinals

Basketball: Spartans stifle Oak Park down the stretch en route to 53-39 win.

February 26, 2014|By Emin Avakian, Special to the Valley Sun

LA CAÑADA — A first half that saw seven lead changes was soon followed by a second half the La Cañada High girls’ basketball team controlled and dominated en route to prevailing in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division III-A tournament against the visiting Oak Park Eagles.

The Spartans outscored the Eagles by double-digits in the second half to turn a slim one-point lead at halftime into a 53-39 victory on Wednesday and gives La Cañada a second consecutive berth in the semifinals, where they will travel to face Santa Margarita on Saturday.

Wednesday evening’s home game with Oak Park, the runner-up of the Tri-Valley League, played out similarly to La Cañada’s second-round win over San Luis Obispo in that the Spartans played a stellar second half after a forgettable first. Alyssa Miller’s three three-pointers in the half sparked the turn-around and was the highlight of potent play on both ends for the Rio Hondo League champions.

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“The defense they came in with changed the game,” said Spartans Coach Tamar Hill, who received 12 points from Miller, nine apiece from Keilee Bessho and Sarah Kurdoghlian, and a team-high 13 from Courtney Chen. “We worked on breaking it down yesterday in practice. But Alyssa went off and that always helps; Keilee made some good decisions from the high post and Courtney distributed the ball well, found Alyssa.”

Despite struggling offensively, the third-seeded Spartans (23-5) matched Oak Park’s tenacious defense and both teams went into halftime shooting less than 30% from the field.

Earlier in the half, the Eagles (18-11) scored the first five points of the second quarter to take a 17-10 lead, and prompted a La Cañada timeout.

The Spartans responded to their coaches by reeling off nine unanswered points, highlighted by an inbound play from Bessho that saw her bounce the ball off an Oak Park defender who had her back to Bessho, who capitalized and finished the play with a lay-up to start the run.

“That’s Keilee’s play. She ran it three times in summer league,” Hill said of Bessho’s inbound play that arguably resulted in the two points that shifted the momentum. “When she sees it, she’ll call it and everybody knows to get out of the way.”

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