By Jung Su Park
Photos By Stephanie Kim
As the clock came to an end, the South Pasadena Tigers found themselves on the winning side of their home opener against the reigning Rio Hondo League Champions La Cañada High School to rise to the league record to 2-0.
The Tigers hosted the Spartans last night without their star senior point guard Joey Toyama who was ejected from Wednesday’s season opener against Blair and suspended due to the use of profane language. In spite of losing a key piece to the team, South Pasadena maintained poise and adjusted to perform at a high level, outscoring La Cañada 18-13 in the first quarter. The Tigers continued their smooth execution in both offensive and defensive ends to finish the first half with a comfortable 36-24 lead.
The game seemed out of reach for the Spartans as South Pasadena once again outscored La Cañada 19-14 in the third quarter. However, the Tigers’ 17 point cushion at the start of the 4th quarter diminished as La Cañada forced numerous turnovers to gain fast break points. The Tigers allowed the Spartans cut down the deficit to only 2 points with 12 seconds left on the clock. However, senior Darren Tom sank two clutch free throws to put South Pasadena up four points at the end of regulation, denying La Cañada of a comeback and giving South Pasadena the intense 62-58 win.
Including Tom, who scored the last two points to secure the victory, various members of the team stepped up throughout the game including senior co-captain Christian Lee, who displayed incredible lockdown defense on La Cañada’s Koko Kurdoghlian, the Rio Hondo League’s MVP last year. Lee kept Kurdoghlian to merely 11 points and filled a distributing role by creating plays for juniors Greg Luck and Raymond Arismendez, who added for 47 points from 10 three-pointers. The South Pasadena Tigers fended off last year’s league champions and proved themselves as one of the favorites to grab this year’s title.
The Tigers dropped numerous points under the offensive leadership of senior Toyama and junior Luck who combined for 50 points throughout four quarters. Notably, Luck exploded for the most points in the game with 28, his career high.
Both teams started out the game on fire as South Pasadena effectively drove to the basket for attempts at the free throw line and Blair continually knocked down three pointers, finishing the first quarter 21-18 and the second quarter 25-22 to give the Tigers a narrow six point edge with 46-40 at the end of the first half.
South Pasadena turned what seemed to be a very close game at the half into a blowout as the Tigers built upon their single digit lead right from the start of the third quarter. They scored 18 points in the third and 15 points in the fourth while defensively limiting Blair to score barely above ten points each quarter of the second half. Tigers pulled out an impressive win to start out the regular season in style.
“The past two games against Blair and La Cañada defined our identity as a team,” Luck said. “We proved that we are true contenders of the title and that we are extremely difficult to beat.”
The South Pasadena Tigers will host the Temple City at the main gym on Wednesday, January 21 to compete for their third win of the Rio Hondo League regular season.