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La Cañada High girls' basketball's state run ends in Santa Barbara

Basketball: Spartans give No. 1 seed a scare, but falter in second half in 55-43 loss.

March 16, 2014|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com

SANTA BARBARA — Having already delivered the program its greatest ascent, the La Cañada High girls’ basketball team delivered top-seeded Santa Barbara quite a fright on Saturday night.

Ultimately, though, the Spartans waned in the second half, thanks in large part to 29 total turnovers, and let a first-half advantage dissipate into a 55-43 loss to the Lady Dons in the second round of the CIF State Girls’ Basketball Division III playoffs at a noisy and hot Santa Barbara High gym.

“We had our chances tonight for sure; unfortunately, we couldn’t finish and we turned it over,” Spartans Coach Tamar Hill said.

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Hill piloted the Spartans to a 24-7 record, a Rio Hondo League title, a CIF Southern Section Division III-A semifinal berth and a trip to the state tournament, the first-ever in program history according to school officials, which included an opening-round win over Eagle Rock.

“I’m really proud of them,” said Hill of her Spartans, who were led by senior guard Courtney Chen scoring a team-high 18 points to go with four rebounds, two steals and two assists.

The ninth-seeded Spartans employed a half-court pressure defense and slowed down the Lady Dons (28-5), the reigning Southern Section Division III-AA champions, in the opening half.

La Cañada jumped out to a quick lead in the first quarter and led throughout the first half, owning a 13-6 lead following the first period and a 23-15 advantage at the half. But Santa Barbara outscored La Cañada, 40-20, in the second half, thanks in most part to a game-changing 21-5 third-quarter advantage.

Of the 29 La Cañada turnovers, 11 came in the third stanza with the likely culprit being fatigue.

“I knew we were running out of gas at halftime,” said Hill, who also received six points from junior Sophia Lamb, five points and six rebounds from junior Haley Miller and five points from junior Keilee Bessho. “We looked sluggish [in the third quarter].”

In many ways, the Spartans made their final stand midway through the fourth, led by Chen, who scored six straight points in a span of 58 seconds to cut the score to 42-38. Santa Barbara answered with the next seven, however, and never led by less than nine the rest of the way.

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