By Miguel A. Melendez Staff Writer
MONROVIA — With 6.6 seconds left on the clock, St. John Bosco High School’s Daniel Hamilton dribbled from the baseline and banked in a pull-up jumper from the free throw line, leaving Pasadena with just 1.7 seconds to pull off a miracle.
But the heave from the length of the court never hit the rim as the visiting Braves ended Pasadena’s promising season with a 53-51 victory in the semifinals of the CIF State Division III playoffs Tuesday night at Monrovia High.
Pasadena (24-8) was the No. 2 seed and looked poise to make a run at this weekend’s Southern California championship game at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario. Instead, it’ll be St. John Bosco (25-7) making the trip for a chance at Sacramento for the state championship next weekend.
This is where the Bulldogs ended two years ago when they lost to Lincoln of San Diego, only this time Pasadena came away the CIF-SS Division 3AAA champion. But the Bulldogs looked destined at making plans for Sacramento. Pasadena had been pummeling opponents the entire run that started nearly four weeks ago against Magnolia.
St. John Bosco would proved to be a formidable opponent with story lines throughout. Pasadena senior Blake Hamilton was going up against his cousins in St. John Bosco’s David and Isaac Hamilton, who chipped in 13 points, four assists and three steals despite battling headaches the entire game.
There also was Pasadena’s Ajon Efferson. The sophomore point guard was reunited with St. John Bosco coach Derrick Taylor, who coached Efferson while the two won a CIF L.A. City Section at Taft last season.
But the pleasantries ended when the whistle blew, and Pasadena got off to a roaring 10-2 start and forced the Braves into 11 first-half turnovers.
St. John Bosco didn’t buckle, ending the second quarter on a 9-0 run before stringing a 13-0 run that gave St. John Bosco its biggest lead of the game, 40-31, on an Isaac Hamilton midcourt steal that led to a monstrous one-handed dunk with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
Pasadena fought back thanks to Efferson’s relentless pursuit to the basket and clutch shooting from the 3-point line. But it started with Avo Yetenekyan coming off the bench to hit a crucial 3-pointer with 54.6 seconds left in the third quarter to pull the Bulldogs within 42-36. The Braves turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and Blake Hamilton came right back for a jumper on a Brandon Jolley miss to make it 42-38 heading into the final quarter.
Efferson hit a 3-pointer to pull within 46-44 with 5:31 left in the game and Hamilton’s put-back off his own miss with 4:14 left in the game tied it at 46-46 to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
Efferson, who finished with 10 points and four assists, hit another 3-pointer to once again tie the game at 48-48 with 3:06 left int he game. Bosco turned it over on the ensuing possession but Pasadena couldn’t capitalize. The Braves came right back with a Juwan Thomas 3-pointer with 2:12 left in the game.
Pasadena was taken out of its element in the second half. The Bulldogs stopped attacking the rim and St. John Bosco’s zone in the second half proved effective in slowing down Pasadena.
The Bulldogs began settling for shots, such as Blake Hamilton’s ill advised fadeaway 3-pointer.
“We got out of our game plan,” Pasadena coach Tim Tucker said. “We started launching shots like if we had the game in control. We didn’t attack the basket like we should have and that allowed them to get back in the game.”
But it was Hamilton who kept Pasadena in the thick of things with another putback to tie the game at 51-51 with 36.5 seconds left.
St. John Bosco worked needed a timeout after failing to create a high percentage shot that saw the clock shot wind down to 6 seconds and 6.6 on the game clock.
Pasadena’s plan was simple.
“The plan was if they got the ball up high to trap and foul,” Tucker said. “We didn’t execute that. We didn’t want (Daniel Hamilton) to dribble and get to the point. We were supposed to foul and give up a foul, but they’re just trying to contest shots, and as far as I’m concerned they contested the shot. It just banked in. It’s a lucky shot. Just count them being a little bit luckier than us.”
Daniel Hamilton after the game said the plan was to lob a pass to his brother Issac on a backdoor screen. But David wantd the shot to hit his second game-winner in the State playoffs.
Pasadena’s Blake Hamilton was nearly inconsolable after the game when he missed the last-second shot attempt. But he finished with a strong performance (22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals) in game attended by college recruiters, including UCLA coach Ben Howland and Cal State Northridge coach Bobby Braswell. Jolley finished with nine points, five rebounds and one steal. He was isolated from the basket nearly the entire game.
Tucker took issues with lack of calls that he said were obvious.
“There was an incident where Jolley has a wide open layup and the guy is holding him,” Tucker said. “The ref misses the call and he (the ref) comes back and tells (Jolley) ‘I blew it.’ That may be a 3-point play, so it just wasn’t our day of calls.”
But Pasadena also didn’t capitalize on potential momentum-swinging plays, like when Hamilton missed the alley-oop dunk off a Jolley lob in the fourth quarter. There also was the four second-chance opportunities in the final minute of the third quarter on rebounds from John Haywood, Hicks and Hamilton before St. John Bosco missed the last-second shot attempt from mid-court. Pasadena was outrebounded, 34-28.
Isaac Hamilton was held well below his 26 point average. Daniel Hamilton finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“Pasadena’s a tough defensive team,” Taylor said. “Coach Tucker’s known for that. It was a grind-it-out type of game and we knew that it was going to be in the 50’s. We give Pasadena a lot of credit because they fought until the end.”
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