By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
It wouldn’t be a Pasadena High School boys basketball game without a little scare.
Beverly Hills proved its worth in the first half keeping the Bulldogs on their heels despite their significant size advantage.
But it never seems to fail.
Pasadena finds its rhythm in the second half, makes big runs in the third quarter on transition plays just like it wants to play.
And that’s what helped the Bulldogs secure an 81-67 win Friday night to punch a ticket into next week’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3AAA championship game at Honda Center.
Second-seed Pasadena (23-7) will face Arroyo Grande, which beat Palm Desert in the other bracket, 51-44. The date has not yet been determined.
The Bulldogs return to the finals since the 2009-10 season when they lost to Eisenhower.
Pasadena wasn’t going call its season a success simply by reaching the finals. Bulldogs coach Tim Tucker has made several trips there and has come away with just one ring in 2007.
In contrast, Beverly Hills (29-10) was making its first trip to the semifinals in 42 years, but the Normans sure played like they had been there before, withstanding Pasadena’s physical play in the first half.
Beverly Hills’ Austin Mills was key in keeping the Normans within 37-32 at halftime. Mills finished with a game-high 23 points, draining 3-pointers from well beyond the arc. Siavache Yoktafar at 5-foot-6 was the smallest player on the court, but he proved elusive and relentless, hitting four 3-pointers for 12 points. He even made a steal in front of the 6-5 Brandon Jolley.
But like many of its victims, Pasadena overwhelmed Beverly Hills with fastbreak runs and led by as many as 17.
“Stops and runs, stops and runs,” Tucker said.
Jolley asserted himself into the offense, and a lot of that had to do with Pasadena moving the ball and looking for him in isolation. His teammates found him and Jolley scored with authority en route to a team-high 22 points on 8 of 16 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Blake Hamilton found his mid-range jumper, knocking down clutch shots in the third quarter to finish with 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks and freshman Jeffrey McClendon added 12 points off the bench.
“He’s not a freshman anymore,” Tucker said. “He’s going to be a great player. He’s a defensive specialist, gets charges and stops. But he started to knock down some big shots, too.”
Perris Hicks filled in flawlessly at point guard after Ajon Efferson (11 points) rolled his left ankle and was forced to sit out the entire second half.
“We’re going to evaluate him tomorrow,” Tucker said. “Perris took over at (point guard). We could have panicked, and I was worried. But we moved the ball around and got it done. That’s why we’re a team. One guy goes down and we have someone that can step up.”