Story by Matthew Tsai
Print Managing Editor
Photo by Jayden Eden
Score correction: South Pasadena fell to Alemany, 55-52 (updated Monday, April 19).
Boys basketball dropped a preseason clash against the Alemany Warriors, 55-52, on Saturday, April 17. The Tigers fall to 0-2 on the season.
The hard-fought game was neck and neck throughout, but South Pas peaked in the second quarter. The Wolves took charge with a run in the third quarter and a monster second half from junior center Sage Wayans, and the Tigers were never able to recover.
The Division I Alemany squad imposed its size and physicality early on. The Warrior bigs pounded the paint, but the smaller Tigers rose to the occasion and matched their level of intensity.
Junior guard Dillon Akers led South Pas offensively, killing Alemany on the perimeter and with his off-the-dribble shot creation. He poured in eight points, including a rainbow three at the quarter’s end to tie the game at 13.
“I try to get to the free throw line or a midrange shot to start,” Akers said. “Personally, I know that for the way I shoot, I just need to see the ball go in once.”
Just as they did against Flintridge Prep, South Pas flicked the switch and found a higher defensive gear in the second period. Quick hands created havoc on the court as the Tigers deflected passes and stripped the ball from the Warriors.
With each defensive stop, the South Pas bench roared louder. Its raucous cheering echoed throughout the gym, culminating with a huge swat from junior center Micah Matsuoka.
“The bench’s energy is extremely important,” Wayans said. “It gives the guys on the floor the energy to keep playing their hardest.”
Midway through the second quarter, Alemany doubled down on its full court press, successfully speeding up the South Pas guards and the game’s tempo. They took advantage of their athleticism to earn some easy buckets and entered halftime trailing, 26-23.
The Tigers opened up the third quarter with two straight turnovers and the Warriors surged ahead on a 7-0 run. However, Wayans halted their momentum; he beat his man at the top of the key with a lightning-fast spin move and elevated to the rim for a tough finger roll plus the foul.
“Seeing the score at the half encouraged me because I knew we could beat that team,” Wayans said. “Seeing how Dillon did at the start of the game [raised] my spirit and [junior forward Niko Lawrence’s] defense did the same.”
After that score, the game turned into a tough defensive struggle. South Pas would draw a charge, and then Alemany would force a five-second violation. Other than Wayans, who finished the game with 20, the Tiger offense went ice cold and the Warriors carried a 39-36 lead into the final quarter of play.
A seemingly unstoppable force at the rim, Wayans put South Pas on his back in the fourth, and after a messy scramble play, an Akers triple finally gave the Tigers the lead.
However, it was short lived: The Warriors answered with a dagger three of their own the very next possession. The Tigers committed two turnovers in the final 40 seconds, allowing the visitors to seal the win.
“Playing this D-I team made us better overall, and I would say it made us realize our own skill,” Wayans said. “After seeing how close the score was, I have a good feeling this season is going to be one of the best basketball seasons South Pasadena has had for a while.”
Still searching for its first win, boys basketball will host Montebello on Monday, April 19, at 7 p.m.