By Jung Su Park
Numbers play a huge role in sports. Outside sources rate a team based on its record, spectators and players alike judge levels of individual skill through statistics, and match outcomes are determined by what appears on the scoreboard. Although such approaches are obviously essential to understanding athletics, displaying favorable numbers on the standings, stat sheet, or scoreboard must not be sports teams’ ultimate priority. Numerical achievements, in essence, are byproducts of fully executing a truly successful season: one filled with euphoria, growth in character, and strengthened interpersonal relationships.
The girls’ basketball team has demonstrated this notion especially well in the recent weeks. South Pas defeated Don Lugo 49-44 and Burroughs 45-43 in the first and second rounds of CIF playoffs, respectively, with late surges in the fourth quarter to erase initial deficits. The Tigers secured these narrow victories under high pressure, not by letting the numbers control their playstyle, but by staying true to what they value as a team. Up ten or down ten, the girls stayed poised and stuck to communicating through encouragement rather than frustration even in situations where a comeback seemed impossible.
Through the power of collective trust, the Tigers overcame a double-digit gap in less than five minutes against Don Lugo. Every play seemed like a practice drill as the girls easily stripped the ball from the Conquistadores possession after possession. In an even more grueling situation facing an offensive drought of scoring only three points in the opening period against Burroughs, the Tigers prevented the game from falling apart by taking the entirety of the match on a play-by-play basis. It was ultimately South Pasadena’s unfaltering confidence in the face of difficulty and ability to maintain modesty during comfortable leads that produced these wins. The Tigers first came out victorious in the battle against themselves before defeating tough postseason opponents to advance further in CIF.
“Heading into the playoff atmosphere of ‘go big or go home’, we did not focus on our opponents’ rankings,” team captain and senior Kristen Kafkaloff said. “We did not let ourselves get intimidated by squads with near-perfect records or relax against teams that appear weak on paper. Over the course of past two playoff games, we matured through learning more about our identity as a group.”