The city of Pasadena will be well represented when Muir High School and Pasadena Poly hit the hardwood on the road tonight in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section girls basketball playoffs. Muir (20-7) will take on Barstow (23-2) in the Division 3A playoffs at 6 tonight at Barstow College while Pasadena Poly (22-3) takes on Montclair Prep (21-6) in the Division 5A tournament at 7 tonight at St. Genevieve High in Panorama City.
Muir vs. Barstow at Barstow College, 6 p.m. — The Mustangs are hoping to get over their semifinal hump. They have not gotten past the semifinals since reaching the finals in a loss to Bishop Amat six years ago. Muir squandered a 6-point lead with two minutes left before losing to Inglewood in the semifinals last year. Three years ago, the Mustangs lost to Mira Costa in the semifinals and was invited to participate in the CIF State playoffs, where they lost in the Southern California Regional championship. Muir led by as many as 19 midway through the third quarter when it suddenly saw it shrink to just four. Still, it wasn’t of great concern for Mustangs coach Gary Johnson. “I was pleased with my girls for holding on to the lead and building it back up,” he said. “They showed a lot of poise.” Muir has come along way since enduring serious disorganization during the regular season, to the point where Johnson had to move down some players to the junior varsity level in an effort to execute the playbook. To be fair, the Mustangs are carrying on for the first time since losing four-year letterman standouts Eliza Pierre (Cal) and Brittany Henderson (Kentucky). The turning point came when sophomore point guard Tahniya Sweatt went down with an ankle injury at the start of Pacific League play, prompting Johnson to move Taylor Gomez from shooting guard to the point. Gomez’s efficiency and steady hand paid dividends, and it allowed the Mustangs to have a solid point guard when Sweatt comes off the bench. Muir’s proven it can shut down its opponents best shooters, and it’ll face another tall task in Barstow’s Nisha Barrett, a 6-foot-1 senior forward having a monstrous season. She’s averaging 17.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 5.6 steals and 3.2 blocks per game. “The last three games,” Johnson said, “we’ve been playing girls that are huge and Daysha Thomas, Jermani Daniels and Christian Connor have been doing a really good job.”
Pasadena Poly vs. Montclair Prep at St. Genevieve High, 7 p.m. — Pasadena Poly is making its first semifinals appearance since 2000 and has not hoisted a CIF championship banner since 1992. The Panthers were ousted in the quarterfinals last year by Santa Clara, who went on to lose to Bell-Jeff in the finals. If there ever was a season in which Pasadena Poly had a chance to make its best run it certainly has to be this season. The Panthers’ boast one of the area’s more premiere shooters in sophomore guard Michelle Miller. She averages a ridiculous 30.9 points and 12.8 rebounds. She dropped 38 points against Desert in a 55-45 quarterfinal win. She scored a career-high 46 points early in the season. It makes sense to double team and even triple team Miller, but somehow, some way she seems to get hers. “She’s always on,” said Pasadena Poly coach Kim Weber, in her fourth season at the helm. “She’s had (the double-teaming) all season. It’s not something that’s new to her or the rest of us. In some ways if you don’t double team her I’m surely stunned.” Miiler’s supporting class — known as the “Bacon Bits” — includes Julia Brown, a senior guard averaging 10.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals. Miller explained earlier this week that a teammate overheard a rival coach in the locker room saying all Pasadena Poly has “is a star, the salad, and everybody else is just the bacon bits.” The Panthers will need an all-around effort against a Montclair Prep team that features three players who score in double figures. Chantel Dooley (16.5 points), Kimberly Scamman (12.3 points), Alex Taylor (10.3) and Lindsay Anderson (9.1 points) do all the scoring for the Mounties. Dooley is the more dangerous of the foursome, averaging 9.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.3 steals. “They’re a good team,” Weber said. “They don’t have a lot of size and neither do we, but they have more shooters.” But nobody who averages 30.
Pasadena 63, Keppel 48 — Chris Bridges scored 17 points, Tyler Barber got off to a hot start in the third quarter to finish with 14 second-half points and Brandon Jolley had a solid first-half contribution scoring 15 points to lead Pasadena to next week’s Division 2A championship game against top-seed Eisenhower at the Honda Center.
La Verne Lutheran 60, Pasadena Poly 42 — The second-seeded Trojans hope to get their rematch next weekend with a championship game against Windward. The tournament’s top seed played visiting Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana on Friday. The Wildcats from L.A. defeated the Trojans in last year’s 5A title game, 72-62. Lutheran won the 5AA title in 2008. If the Trojans face the Wildcats, at least one opposing coach will be in their corner: Poly’s Brad Hall. “They’re good,” he said. “I don’t know if we had played a perfect game if that would have been good enough. There’s a reason they went overtime with (Pasadena). There’s a reason they beat Eisenhower. There’s a reason they beat all these teams. They’re really good.”
Sierra Canyon 64, Renaissance Academy 57: Michael Cohen had 19 of his 31 points in the first half and Daniel Cohen added 11 points to help the No. 4 Trailblazers (22-7) hold off a late Renaissance Academy rally, securing their first trip to a division final in the program’s five-year history. The Wildcats, who are still seeking their first title, fell behind by 12 points in the first quarter, before cutting the deficit to 55-52 on a 3-pointer by Gilles Tacita with 1:41 remaining. But Jesse Howell answered with a layup for Sierra Canyon and the Cohens combined to hit four free throws down the stretch to seal the victory and a matchup with No. 2 Besant Hill oj Ojai in the final.
Kilpatrick 60, AGBU 43 Hagop Bonikian and Allen Kazangian each scored 12 points, but it wasn’t enough as AGBU’s dream season came to a stop Friday night in the semifinals of the Division 6A playoffs. AGBU (17-5) made its first playoff appearance a memorable one. The International League champion became the third Armenian school ever to make the semifinals, following Mesrobian in 2003 and Pilibos in 2007. “It’s been an exciting run,” AGBU coach Vic Karapetian said. “We’re proud of the students. To do what we’ve done in a two-year span and this being our second year in sports is something we’re definitely proud of.” AGBU trailed only 38-24 at the half, but Kilpatrick’s (12-10) length and size proved to be the difference.
Not five minutes had passed after Pasadena High School beat Mira Costa in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A boys basketball quarterfinals when senior point guard George Toyama heard the news.
“I overheard somebody in the stands say that Keppel won,” Toyama recalled, “and immediately I had a grin on my face.”
The postgame speech over and ready to leave the locker room and jump on the bus to head home, Toyama pulled out his cell phone first and made a call.
It’s coming man.
On the other end was Keppel guard Timmy Wong, a three-year letterman who helped the Aztecs reach their first semifinals appearance against Pasadena tonight at 7 at Muir.
We’re coming for you too.
A matchup 14 years in the making, Toyama will play against childhood friend Wong in the grandest stage high school sports has to offer, with the winner moving on to next Saturday’s championship game at the Honda Center.
Toyama knows what it’s like to play in such a spotlight. As a freshman he was on the Pasadena team that won the Division 2A championship three years ago. Sitting in the stands, looking up to the massive scoreboard and an overflow crowd was Wong. He was there supporting his best friend Toyama, whom he’s known and played basketball with since they were 4 years old. The scenery much too captivating to forget, Wong couldn’t sleep from thinking all day what it may be like to play for something as meaningful as a CIF-Southern Section championship.
TODAY’S GAMES, 3 P.M.
DIVISION 2 Saugus vs. Flintridge Sacred Heart at Glendale College: Flintridge Sacred Heart has vengeance on its mind now that it knows who it plays in today’s quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 soccer playoffs. The Tologs (18-1-3) will host Saugus (11-4-2) at 3:15 p.m. at Glendale College, but it wasn’t until later in the evening Wednesday after its 5-0 victory over St. Lucy’s in the second round that Flintridge Sacred Heart found out it was playing the defending champion who ousted them in the second round last year. There’s a stark difference with the Tologs this year in that they’re much younger, but they’re also a battle-tested group ranked 11th in the nation on the ESPN FAB 50 rankings. Their lone loss was against Bishop’s of La Jolla, the No. 9-ranked team in the nation and tops in the CIF-San Diego Section.
Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Frank Pace said Saugus is dangerous for reasons other than beaming with confidence as defending champion. “They’re on a roll and feeling good about themselves,” Pace said. “They have the mentality of a champion. We’re trying to get there. We’re playing sophomores and freshmen, but we’ll get there.” The Tologs can hold their ground, too. They’ve played with precision, and that’s complemented their offensive prowess well, led by Katie Johnson (18 goals) and Breeana Koemans (14 goals, 14 assists). Defensively, Flintridge Sacred Heart has eight shutouts and has given up only nine goals in 22 games. The Tologs also are on a roll of their own, having beaten five league champions this season to earn a No. 2 seed in the tournament. Among them: Harvard-Westlake (the top-seeded team in Division 2), Alverno (defending Division 7 champion), Royal (Division 1) and Beckman (ranked No. 44 in the nation). It’s those kind of results that make Flintridge Sacred Heart an elite power. “And this was supposed to be our transition year,” Pace said. Some transition.
DIVISION 7 Cate vs. Alverno at Rio de Los Angeles Park: Scoring seems to come easy for Alverno and the defending Division 7 champion hopes it continues that way when it hosts CATE of Carpinteria in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. today at Rio De Los Angeles Park in Los Angeles. The Jaguars (15-5-1) were worried that rust might be an issue after they earned a first-round bye and had not played in 14 days. But Alverno came out firing on all cylinders, scoring eight goals in all and getting four from Cassie Saavadra in an 8-1 victory over South El Monte in the second round. Alverno has allowed only two goals in its last seven games and in that span has scored a staggering 69 goals.
TODAY’S GAMES, 3 P.M.
DIVISION 5 Salesian 1, La Caada 0, OT — Jose Espinoza scored on a volley that slipped past the keeper to lift Salesian to a 1-0 win in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 playoffs Thursday afternoon. Salesian (18-4-2) will host Baldwin Park in a rematch of last year’s Division 5 championship game. Jovani Zayas provided the assist three minutes into the overtime. The goal seemed inevitable as the visiting Mustangs pressured up top in the final 10 minutes of the second half. La Caada (23-3-1) was making its second straight quarterfinal appearance. The Spartans were ousted in PK’s by Baldwin Park last year. La Caada had a great season and should hold its head up high. This game certainly provided a finals atmosphere as it was played in front of the largest La Caada soccer crowd this season. The Spartans lost to a team that has won two of the last three Division 5 championships; Salesian won the CIF Southern California Regional two years ago. Cameron Meeker and Matt Cannata wowed soccer aficionados with precision and spectacular scoring; Meeker finished the season with 33 goals and 13 assists and Cannata had 24 goals and 12 assists.
DIVISION 6 Pasadena Poly 0, Tahquitz 0 (Pasadena Poly wins on PK’s, 3-0): Pasadena Poly keeper Matt Morrish made one huge PK save in regulation and stopped three more during penalties to lead the Panthers to a 3-0 win on PK’s over Tahquitz after a scoreless tie. Morrish also scored one of the Panthers’ 3 penalties to earn the win. Pasadena Poly will visit Mountain View in the semifinals next Tuesday.
Oak Hills 3, Maranatha 0: Oak Hills took advantage of the long ball and scored a goal in the first 10 minutes of each half to pull away for the win. This was Maranatha’s deepest playoff run since making a finals appearance in 1997. The Minutemen accomplished their goal of bringing home the school’s first Alpha League title in more than a decade.