By Keith Lair Staff Writer
TORRANCE — The La Caada High School boys basketball team has had a habit of missing its fair of easy shots and turning the ball over this season. The Spartans have done their fair share of forcing opponents into the same circumstances, too.
Tuesday night, it was turnovers that finished off La Caada’s season.
The Spartans turned the ball over four times in overtime and host South scored a 59-58 victory to advance to Friday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA semifinals.
“Turnovers were critical,” La Caada coach Tom Hofman said. “We didn’t handle our composure well and we didn’t get good shots because we were running around.”
La Caada twice rallied from deficits, Darrell Dansby scoring on a backdoor layup with 14 seconds in regulation to send the quarterfinal game into overtime.
“When Darrell made the backdoor, it was great and it gave us momentum,” center Conner Boyd said. “But we just couldn’t get it together in overtime.”
The Spartans of South, the tournament’s fourth seed, scored the first basket of the extra 4-minute period, Garrett Niida on a layup.
La Caada, the tournament’s third seed, turned the ball over on two consecutive trips down the court. Gibran Sewani scored on a layup for a 55-51 South lead with 2:13 to play. Dansby, who had nine of his team-high 16 points in the first quarter, missed on a 22-footer. Both teams turned the ball over and then La Canada’s Tim Kim missed a 6-footer.
La Caada was then forced to foul and Amar Kukreja gave South a 57-51 lead with 49 seconds remaining. Kim hit two foul shots and Kukreja and Sewani made single foul shots to give South a 59-53 lead with 18 seconds remaining.
Boyd missed a desperate 3-pointer,got his own rebound and scored with 4 seconds to go to cut it to four. Kukreja stepped out of bounds on the inbounds pass and Jay Srinivasan hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
He made four 3-pointers in the game, two in the fourth quarter to rally La Caada, 17-11, from a six-point deficit.
It was not quite the offensive play Hofman wanted down the stretch.
“We didn’t do the job on offense,” Hofman said. “We tried to get it inside to Conner and we were a little too much helter-skelter. We put the ball on the ground too much too early. They weren’t setting up the way we wanted them to.”
The 6-0 deficit to start the extra period did not help, Boyd said.
“I don’t know what happened in overtime,” he said. We let them score six uncontested points and we had to try and come back from that. It’s pretty hard to do.”
It appeared as if South, 18-11, would make this a no-contest game in the opening minutes. South had six offensive rebounds in the first half, nearly all of them resulting in put-back baskets for a 14-4 lead. Hofman sent in Boyd, the son of USC basketball great Bob and the grandson of UC coach Bill Sewani, who had six points in the first quarter and 13 in the game, missed his next five shots.
“Conner did a great job defensively,” Hofman said. “He contained him very well. We could have been blown out right away.”
Dansby got La Caada with his nine first-quarter points on 4-of-5 shooting, including a 3-pointer.
La Caada could have opened a lead in the first half, but missed seven foul shots. Three South starters had three fouls
each before halftime.
“We were pressuring the ball and a lot of calls did not go our way,” South coach Leo Klemm said. “We played smart and man-to-man mostly in the second half. No gimmicks. We wanted to keep everybody in front of us.”
La Canada, which shot a surprising 64.2 percent from the floor in the first half, shot 33.3 percent in the second half.
“We had so many chances to score,” Hofman said. “We didn’t do it. It was a great season.”