By Miguel A. Melendez Staff Writer
PASADENA — Too much has been made of the fact the Pasadena High School boys basketball team was dethroned as nine-time Pacific League champions this year.
That it came at the hands of crosstown rival Muir only amplified the so-called concern over the state of the Bulldogs’ program.
But Pasadena wanted it to be known whose town this still belongs to, and why the Bulldogs are considered the area’s prominent basketball school.
Pasadena delivered its message in emphatic fashion, closing out the regular season with a dominating 71-53 win to close out the regular season in front of a standing-room only crowd Thursday night.
There was no denying who wanted this win more, and Pasadena (19-7, 12-2) clearly sent a message by stifiling Muir (23-2, 12-1) with its staple defense. The offense would soon follow, as the Bulldogs shot 10 of 15 in the first quarter alone. That kind of momentum allowed Pasadena to increase its lead to as many as 21 in the third quarter, and soon Muir began feeling the effects of a hungry Bulldogs team that was seeking vengeance after losing the first meeting, 64-61.
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Pasadena was dominant throughout, led by forward Brandon Jolley who was virtually unstoppable inside. The 6-foot-5 junior finished with a game-high 28 points to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks. H shot 12 of 21 from the floor and his teammates followed suit.
Blake Hamilton recorded three thunderous dunks to finish with 12 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists. John Haywood finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three assists. Perris Hicks also had a solid game with 12 points, three steals and two blocks. Ajon Efferson, a sophomore point guard, is looking to grow into his role, finishing with eight points, three assists and two rebounds with a block and a steal.
Pasadena opened the quarter on an 8-0 run and led 26-9 before Muir finally went on a run, albeit modest. The Mustangs had an 8-0 run in the first quarter that barely left a dent.
It didn’t help that Muir was outrebounded (38-31) and committed more turnovers (15 to 10). Pasadena also dished out more assists, 13-4.
Pasadena shot 45 percent (27 of 60 from the floor while Muir struggled throughout, shooting 17 of 45 from the floor. Jelani Mitchell and Dion Nelson tried helping the Mustangs stay on pace, each scoring 13 points. Brian Carrier (3 points, 10 rebounds) started in place of 6-5 forward Andre Frazier, who sat out his second consecutive game because of concerns raised over his eligibility. He sat out Tuesday’s game against Crescenta Valley when the Mustangs clinched the school’s first league title in over a decade. Muir coach Gamal Samlley said they are keeping him out for precautionary reasons and that the school should know by today if he’s OK to play. the CIF-Southern Section has not ruled him ineligible, but Muir officials are keeping him out to be cautious.
Frazier’s presence was severely missed. As Jolley muscled his way into the basket it opened up the inside game for the rest of the team, too.
Pasadena wanted to assure the CIF committee that it earned a No. 2 seed in Division 3AAA when the brackets are released on Sunday. The Bulldogs two losses in league this season came by a combined five points, and five of its seven losses have come to teams ranked top 50 in the state.
“We thought we left something on the court (in the last meeting,” Pasadena coach Tim Tucker said. “We knew we wer emuch better than we played last time and we wanted some momentum going into CIF. We want CIF to know how good we are and believe we have a big run ahead of us.”
Pasadena wanted its message to be clear, that two losses in league and not ending as a 10-time league champion doesn’t mean the Bulldogs talent has gone down. On the contrary.
“There’s a lot of talk in this town,” Tucker said. “And Jolley felt there was too much talk going on, too. People got it confused that we’re the second team in the city. We’re not the second best etam in the city. We know how good we are. Jolley knows how good he is. We just came out here and proved it.
“I congratulate Muir on a good season and a league championship, but we got nine in a row. We know how good we are.”
Muir, currently No. 5 in Division 4AA, started three seniors who are not regular starters because it was senior night. By the time Mitchell, Carrier and Taturs Mayberry entered the game Pasadena had already taken the early momentum.
Muir’s trapping defense went missing, and the Mustangs’ trademark play of building runs came only in the first quarte.r Muir isused to dictating the pace, but just couldn’t make it happen.
“They went at us and stopped our sideline breaks a little bit,” Smalley said. “We just didn’t cur the counters. Once Muir starts to slow and walk a game then you see other teams have advantages.”