By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
PASADENA — A swarming defense and a healthy dose of Andre Spight was just the ticket for Pasadena High School on Tuesday.
The defense created 22 turnovers and Spight scored 29 points as the Bulldogs punched their ticket to their ninth consecutive Pacific League boys basketball title with a 75-68 victory over Crescenta Valley.
“It was won on the defensive side,” Pasadena senior Perris Hicks said. “Pasadena is known for defense. It’s hard to play defense. You have to find it in you. But once you find it in you, everything gets flowing.”
Pasadena (19-5) has a two-game lead on the Falcons with one game to play, Thursday against visiting archrival Muir. The Falcons ( 19-7) need to defeat visiting Arcadia on Thursday to clinch second in league.
Crescenta Valley, which defeated Pasadena, 57-54, in the last meeting, had to win Tuesday to try and earn a share of the league title. A loss to Hoover last week severely hampered their chances of dethroning the Bulldogs without a victory Tuesday.
“Say they score off of five offensive rebounds and five turnovers,” Crescenta Valley coach Shawn Zargarian said. “That’s 20 points right there and I’m being nice. That was difference in the game right there, the turnovers and offensive rebounds.”
A heavy does of Hicks and Spight helped build a lead that reached as many as 16 points.
Hicks, whom Falcons sharpshooter Cole Currie called the toughest defender he’s ever faced earlier this season, kept the guard off-balance and even frustrated Currie, who had only five points after three quarters. He finished with a team-high 20 points on 6 of 19 field-goal attempts.
“We just knew we had to come focused and play defense from the very beginning of the game,” Pasadena coach Tim Tucker said. “I thought we threw the first blow and kind of held on.
“The gameplan was to not let Cole get going toward the basket and pull up for the 3-pointer. We did a great job on him.”
When the Falcons set picks for Currie, Spight picked up the guard seamlessly.
“Our defense was great,” Tucker said. “Raymond (Jackson), Jeffrey (McClendon) and Perris were phenomenal. They can dial it up with anybody. I keep saying I wouldn’t want to play us in the playoffs. You’ve got three defenders like that. We’re a dangerous team.”
And if it wasn’t the defense, it was Pasadena’s rebounding that did the trick. The Bulldogs had 15 offensive rebounds despite the absence of Brandon Jolley.
He had four points and two rebounds in the first half and did not play in the second half because of what Tucker called personal issues.
Perhaps the biggest rebound was not a rebound at all.
The Falcons appeared to have the rebound, but Hurschel Langham punched the ball into the air. Hicks got it and was immediately fouled. The Bulldogs were finally into double bonus foul shots and the point guard hit both to make it 65-57.
“I made some big free throws and stayed confident,” Hicks said.
Springer was called for charging, his fifth foul of the game, and Spight made one of two foul shots to take it back to a nine-point lead.
However, the Bulldogs did not stop playing their aggressive defense, and much to Tucker’s dismay, fouled the Falcons as soon as they got the ball.
It got as close as 71-65 when Currie hit a 20-footer with 20 seconds left, the final field goal of the night. The Bulldogs made four foul shots and the Falcons three the rest of the way.
By Keith Lair, Staff Writer