Story by Matthew Tsai
Print Managing Editor
Photo by Jayden Eden
Boys basketball stumbled in a 47-45 heartbreaker loss at San Marino in its league opener on Wednesday, April 21. The Tigers fall to 1-3 overall this year.
South Pas held its own in the first quarter, but San Marino rallied behind its star shooting guard to outscore them 15-9 in the second frame. The Tigers managed to claw back to a one-point difference with four seconds remaining, but an unsuccessful half-court heave left them with their first Rio Hondo League loss.
“To be honest, we played terribly,” senior guard Chase Johnson said. “All we can take from this game is to move on and prepare for [the next game].”
With junior center Sage Wayans standing at six foot five inches, the Tigers had an early size advantage. On South Pas’ first offensive possession, Wayans muscled his way through the paint, snagged on offensive rebound, and put the ball back up for the first two points of the game.
Wayans would lead the Tigers with six points and three offensive boards in the first, but some South Pas shooting struggles and well-executed buckets from San Marino gave the home team a 14-13 lead.
The beginning of the second quarter slowed to a stalemate. The Titans exhibited a patient offense with crisp ball movement, but the Tigers stayed home, rotated well, and played solid defense. But, San Marino quickly broke through, and the opposing shooting guard dropped eight points in a hurry — two long-range bombs and a rainbow floater that kissed off the glass — to increase the lead to seven.
“Our whole gameplan was to stop [their two guards,],” C. Johnson said. “The reason we lost was because our help defense wasn’t what it should have been, so the backside was getting hit hard.”
San Marino came out in a zone defense to start the second half. South Pas took a few possessions to acclimate to the change, and despite three straight turnovers, senior point guard Tyler Johnson and junior guard Dillon Akers hit two corner threes to climb back into the game.
Nevertheless, the Titans continued to score. Just as they took an eight-point lead, Akers nailed a half-court buzzer beater to end the quarter with the Tigers trailing, 38-33.
South Pas opened the final period with a quick couple of buckets and junior forward Niko Lawrence drained a three, his first bucket of the match, to tie it at 40.
For the next minute and a half, the game devolved into a display of hot potato. The match turned into a mad scramble — but no one seemed to want the ball. After a mixture of turnovers, steals, and missed layups, San Marino finally scored to go up by five.
However, the Tigers refused to back down. T. Johnson rattled in a huge midrange pull-up, and South Pas earned a few defensive stops to keep the game close.
With 1:12 remaining, Wayans stripped the ball away from a helpless Titan and outletted the Tigers into transition, but South Pas missed a potentially game-tying layup from point blank range.
The next time down, Wayans converted a tough layup to bring the score to 46-45. With the shot clock turned off, the Tigers played the foul game and caught a break when an opposing Titan only hit one free throw.
Akers drove down the court with only four seconds left and attempted a running half-court shot, similar to the one he drained minutes ago. However, it wouldn’t fall; the horn buzzed and San Marino escaped with the 47-45 win.
“Since it was only four seconds left, I tried to snake through the court and get as good of a look as possible,” Akers said. “Since I hit one before, I had the confidence to try and get a look.”
The team will return on Friday, April 23, for its home opener against Blair.