Rivalry Night: Pasadena, Muir will go down to the wire.

Above: Pasadena’s Blake Hamilton defending Muir’s Deon Nelson.

No. 2 Muir (17-1, 6-0) at No. 1 Pasadena (13-5, 6-0), 5 p.m.

#0 Deon Nelson, Guard, 5-11, 170, Sr.
#1 Michael Cockrell, Guard, 6-0, 155, Sr.
#23 Jelani Mitchell, Forward, 6-4, 165, Jr.
#14 Andre Frazier, Forward, 6-5, 175, Sr.
#25 Taturs Mayberry, Forward, 6-5, 210, Jr.

#1 Ajon Efferson, Guard, 6-0, 170, So.
#11 Perris Hicks, Guard, 6-1, 175, Jr.
#23 John Haywood, 5-10, 175, Guard, Sr.
#10 Blake Hamilton, Guard, 6-4, 180, Sr.
#15 Brandon Jolley, Forward, 6-5, 220, Jr.

The Breakdown: Nevermind the other five teams Muir and Pasadena have faced in the Pacific Leauge. You only have to look at the result against Crescenta Valley. Pasadena played CV last Friday. The Bulldogs led by eight at the half, led by as many as 28 and won by 21. Muir on Tuesday this week led CV at the half by four and won by 20. To say that these teams are very similar is an understatement. I didn’t have to wonder how great this game was going to be until this week. I saw it the second I laid eyes on Muir back in the early rounds of the La Salle/Temple City Holiday Classic. Take away the blue/gold jerseys and replace Gamal Smalley with a 6-foot-4 coach and you have Pasadena on the floor. The Mustangs proved their worth all the way to the tournament title when they faced Village Christian, a team that features three Division I recruits. Muir was sloppy near the end, clanking free-throw after free-throw. But you saw the tremendous upside, and Muir’s proven its wait and worth all the way to this point. After reaching the Division CIF-SS 5A finals last year, Muir is no stranger to playing in the big game. The Mustangs return 10 of 11 players from last year’s team that nearly knocked off PHS last year. From 1 to 5, Muir and PHS match up well. There really are no mismatches. You want speedy guards? How about Deon Nelson vs. Ejon Efferson? Nelson is the veteran of the group but don’t discount Efferson, a sophomore who has transitioned at the point with seamless effort. Nelson is a quick-handed guard who can beat you off the dribble and take it to the hoop. You want some bigger guard action? Check out the best matchup of the night between Jelani Mitchell and Blake Hamilton. Both are 6-4 guards who can play above the rim. Their height and long arms can wreak havoc when they trap on the corners and their speed is almost unparalleled. The second best matchup has to be Taturs Mayberry vs. Brandon Jolley. Mayberry’s already proven he can dominate a game after a 42-point, 15-rebound performance. He can muscle his way to the basket and he’s more agile than his 6-5, 210-pound frame leads others to believe. Jolley has the ability to dominate the post at 6-5, 220 pounds. You can’t hack him, he’s an efficient free-throw shooter who in addition clogs lanes and makes you think twice about drive-in layups. Michael Cockrell and Andre Frazier are superb behind the scenes, doing a lot of the dirty work with easy putbacks. They can also help spread the floor with deft mid-range shooting. Off the bench, Tevin Polk has starter-like talent. Brian Carrier showed a glimpse of what’s to come. The 6-foot-2 sophomore scored 12 points off the bench against Crescenta Valley. Pasadena’s Perris Hicks and John Haywood are punishers on defense, but Haywood adds a touch on offense that complements the Bulldogs. Chris Hanayan can potentially be deadly from beyond the arc when he’s on. Add Raymond Jackson (6-foot-6) to the rotation and Pasadena has a second unit that can extend leads. Pasadena’s depth might have the edge, but that’s the least of Muir’s worry early on in the game. The Mustangs can’t get rattled early on, especially playing on the road. It’s really tough making this pick. You can see both teams are just about evenly matched. I wouldn’t be surprised if Muir wins, and if that happens then Bulldog fans should show some love. Muir’s come a long way in just a few years. But at this point, I’m going with history.

The Pick: Pasadena.

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Rivalry Night: It’s personal between Smalley, Tucker; No. 2 Muir (17-1, 6-0) visits crosstown rival No. 1 Pasadena (13-5, 6-0) at 5 p.m. tonight. Get there early!!!

By Miguel A. Melendez Staff Writer

The rivalry between Muir High School boys basketball coach Gamal Smalley and Pasadena coach Tim Tucker has gone beyond the court.

It’s gotten personal.

With the packed crowd all but gone following the Mustangs’ first meeting against Pasadena last year, there stood Smalley waiting for a warm embrace from his mother after Muir relinquished a 16-point lead before losing by three. With a warm smile and outstretched arms, Smalley’s mother, Flossie, walked toward him from the other end of the court.

“Her loving smile was just what I needed,” Smalley recalled.

As she walked in his direction the unthinkable occurred: Flossie walked past Smalley and embraced Tucker instead. Smalley stood there in shock, looking at his brother Omar who could only laugh hysterically.

Smalley asked Omar what was up with the family betrayal. Omar’s answer said everything there is to know about their mother’s attitude:

“He told me mom said, `What can I say? I love a winner.”‘

It’s been over a decade since Muir (17-1, 6-0) has beaten Pasadena (13-5, 6-0). In the Bulldogs’ run as nine-time defending Pacific League champions, they’ve lost only twice, both times to Crescenta Valley.

Muir will get its chance at claiming a piece of basketball supremacy when it travels to play crosstown rival Pasadena at 5 p.m. today. The game is expected to sell out.


Continue reading “Rivalry Night: It’s personal between Smalley, Tucker; No. 2 Muir (17-1, 6-0) visits crosstown rival No. 1 Pasadena (13-5, 6-0) at 5 p.m. tonight. Get there early!!!” »

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Girls Soccer: Flintridge Sacred Heart draws blanks.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

EAGLE ROCK – By the time the temperature dipped to a brisk 52 degrees, the Flintridge Sacred Heart soccer team’s offense had gone cold, too.

Throughout their key Mission League match with Chaminade, the Tologs aggressively created plenty of scoring opportunities while dominating the play up front.

But the inability to finish plays would come back to bite them, and a critical goalkeeper error doomed Flintridge Sacred Heart in a 1-0 loss on Thursday night at Occidental College.

Chaminade (15-2-3, 3-0-1) struggled through its offensive sets in the first half while Flintridge Sacred Heart (10-4-1, 3-2) found itself on the attack early and often. The Tologs, however, had nothing to show for it heading into a scorelesshalf.

The Eagles were a different team in the second half, and their push up front was rewarded.

Brittnay Solis won a loose ball and made the Tologs pay for it. The junior center midfielder squared up and took a blistering shot 30 yards out from an angle. The shot had such force that as Flintridge Sacred Heart keeper Lindsey Espe bent down to make the catch on a dipping ball, it slipped by and went through her legs and into the back of the net in the 46th minute.

“She put as much as she could into it,” Chaminade coach Mike Evans said. “To her credit, the ball had a swirl in it. It was going one direction and it dropped on the keeper. To be honest, as much as she might beat herself up over the ball it definitelyhad some swirl on it.

“If the ball’s straight on maybe the keeper is in front of it. It was just a fortunate rebound that came to us and (Solis) was able to settle it and put it on frame.”

Continue reading “Girls Soccer: Flintridge Sacred Heart draws blanks.” »

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Should the Muir-PHS game move to a different site?

Should the Muir-PHS boys basketball game scheduled for Friday at 5 p.m. move to a different site?

That’s the question that comes to mind when you expect this particular game to sell out hours before tipoff. Obviously I damn well know it’s way too late to make any kind of venue change give the game is just one day away, and logistically it would probably be a nightmare. But I wonder what fans think about the idea.

Muir and PHS each was given 400 tickets for pre-sale purchase this week on a first-come, first-serve basis. Obviously each team gets one side of the bleachers, and the north end of the gym presumably will be general admission to whoever can scoop up tickets for what promises to be a Pacific League smackdown for the ages.

In the past, I’ve made it a priority to arrive early any time I cover a Muir-PHS game. Granted, that’s only in football and basketball, but I arrive early nonetheless. I didn’t need four years as a reporter covering this rivalry to know that these games always sellout. Records and/or playoff implications are always thrown out the window when these teams meet. The atmosphere is always electric, the blood is pumping and nerves are high.

You remember last year when Muir almost knocked off Pasadena for the first time in almost seven years? The Mustangs were up by around 16 points before losing by single digits? Pasadena went on to sweep the series yet again en route to its ninth consecutive league championship. Muir also made a nice run as the third-place team, reaching the finals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5A playoffs.

But you can’t overlook the significance of this particular game coming up Friday and what’s riding on this game. Sure, these teams will met again down the road, but this game most certainly will set the stage and the winner will have all the swagger heading into the second and final meeting.

And as I remind you of this you have to ask yourself, when was the last time Muir was undefeated in league heading into its biggest game of the season against its bitter rival?

Muir is 17-1 overall with its lone loss to Village Christian in the championship game of the La Salle/Temple City Tournament. It was the Mustangs’ third straight tournament championship appearance.

Pasadena is 13-5 overall with losses coming to powerhouse teams in the Bay area. That Pasadena schedules tough during nonleague and seldom plays area teams during its nonleague portion of the season is a surprise to no one.

Muir and PHS are both 6-0 in league.

So with so much riding on this game, and the anticipation building by the minute after Muir dismantled Crescenta Valley, you have to know that tickets for this game will be the hottest ticket in town. The game will sellout and there will be hundreds of fans left outside who won’t catch the game. I’m not exaggerating when I say HUNDREDS of fans will be left outside. Trust me, I’ve seen it.

So would it make sense to move the game to, say, Pasadena City College? Or am I just a crazy lunatic typing away?

Is the rivalry better off remaining where it always has been: PHS and Muir High? You can’t replicate the intimacy of a high school gym, the colors of the home team and the familiarity of dressing in your locker room and running out on your home court.

You can make arguments for both, I guess. But one thing I know for sure, I already have my seat reserved.

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