By Jung Su Park
The South Pasadena boys’ varsity basketball team showcased a series of favorable performances at the John Muir Tournament. The tournament hosted eight high schools who competed at John Muir High School from November 24 to November 29 during the Thanksgiving break. South Pasadena finished with a second place finish and started its season with an impressive 3-1 record, beating Verdugo Hills 52-40, Ganesha 80-28, and Crenshaw 73-67. The series of victories qualified the Tigers for the championship game against the host John Muir squad, in which the Tigers lost to the Mustangs 64-52.
Heading into the first game of the tournament, South Pasadena faced Verdugo Hills in round 1. The opposing team’s players were bigger in height and size, and mainly focused on their heavy defense. Tigers recognized this aspect of Verdugo Hills’ game and carried out the strategy of forcing turnovers and converting them into fast break points. This plan proved to work effectively as South Pasadena started out the tournament at full speed, beating Verdugo Hills 52-40.
Coming off a well-deserved win against Verdugo Hills, the Tigers entered the second game of the tournament against Ganesha with high spirits. South Pasadena experienced no difficulty throughout the game, routing Ganesha 80-28 utilizing easy layups, rebounds, and jumpers and then improving to a 2-0 record. This win qualified the Tigers to play Crenshaw at the tournament’s semi-finals.
South Pasadena and Crenshaw both entered the game with 2-0 records. The Tigers maintained poise and took on a slow approach to the game against the fast-paced Bobcats who preferred to push the ball on fast-breaks and rush the other team’s shots. The game score between the two opponents was intensely close from the beginning to the end; however, the Tigers ultimately prevailed 73-67 off of key free throws in the fourth quarter by senior Joey Toyama, and qualified for the championship game versus the host John Muir.
Both established themselves as the tournament’s powerhouses, the Tigers and the Mustangs went head-to-head from the start. Each team scored 16 in the first quarter; the Tigers and Mustangs respectively scored 9 and 8 points in the second quarter. However, the Tigers began to lose momentum in the midst of the John Muir’s home crowd after halftime, mustering up 11 in the third quarter and 16 in the fourth quarter compared to the Mustangs’ 20 in both quarters. The final score amounted to 64-52 with South Pasadena narrowly come up short and lose its chances as the champion team of the John Muir tournament.
“The tournament as a whole was a success and the championship game was a well-fought battle,” Senior co-captain Christian Lee said. “Although we couldn’t come through as first place winners, we learned valuable lessons for future games. This loss in the championship game is only making us hungrier heading into the regular league season.”