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La Cañada High girls' basketball held down by Santa Margarita's pressure in semifinal loss

Basketball: Early foul trouble, defensive pressure plagues Spartans in 69-57 loss to host Eagles.

March 01, 2014|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA — Early as it was, the first two minutes of Saturday evening’s CIF Southern Section Division 3-A semifinal at Santa Margarita High very much proved to be the deciding factor in the conclusion of the La Cañada girls’ basketball team’s season and the continuance of the host Eagles’.

In the game’s first 78 seconds, the Spartans were down by eight points and reigning All-Area Girls’ Basketball Player Courtney Chen was on the bench with two quick fouls.

Thus, despite a late, valiant charge by the Spartans, the early cushion was cushion enough, as second-seeded Santa Margarita, propelled by its full-court press, defeated third-seeded La Cañada, 69-57.

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“It’s hard to get into any rhythm with Courtney on the bench,” said Spartans Coach Tamar Hill, whose Rio Hondo League champions now sit at 25-6 while hoping for a CIF State berth. “We worked on breaking [the press]. I think we kind of went into a shell a little bit.”

It was the second consecutive season in which La Cañada fell in the semifinals, only this time, it was to a Santa Margarita team that the Spartans dispatched in last year’s quarterfinals. With two freshmen and just one senior in the starting lineup, the Eagles (18-13) were a different bunch, though.

“It’s completely different,” said Santa Margarita Coach Matt Hosuer, whose team is an at-large entry out of the vaunted Trinity League and will play Inglewood, a 50-43 winner over South Pasadena, in the division final.

The game was physical from start to finish with a combined 61 fouls, with Santa Margarita drawing 31. The Eagles shot 30 of 48 from the floor, while the Spartans hits 28 of 41 in a game that was as physical as it was stop and go.

“There really wasn’t any flow to the game because it was so physical,” Hill said.

Chen’s early foul troubles limited her throughout. She returned in the second quarter with 6:26 to play, but left exactly two minutes later after her third foul. She finished the night with just seven points.

“When she came out of the game, that was a huge advantage and we capitalized on it,” Hosuer said.

La Cañada junior Keilee Bessho led the way for the Spartans with 19 points along with six rebounds and five steals.

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