By Nathan Cambridge
It was a one-sided affair when the South Pasadena and San Marino high school boys’ basketball teams met in their Rio Hondo League opener on Dec. 13. The Tigers handed the rival Titans their first loss of the season and in a blowout fashion.
That did not sit well with San Marino, which had a chance to get back at the Tigers hosting South Pasadena in the reverse Rio Hondo League matchup on Jan. 19.
The matchup proved to be wildly competitive this time around, but San Marino, despite leading at half, could not hold the advantage and visiting South Pasadena prevailed 76-66.
“Our intensity level picked up a little more,” said South Pasadena coach Ernest Baskerville of what changed after halftime. “We did the things that we do well, like get up and down the floor, get easy buckets in transition and start hitting threes. I think we just kind of wore them down.”
South Pasadena, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division III-AA according to the latest polls released Jan. 22, was led in scoring by Derek Peterson with 18 points. Jack Madison added 17 points, Russell Williams tallied 16, and Arias scored 11 to join Peterson as double-digit scorers. Miles Nowe contributed six points, while Sebastian Martinez and Oni Balogun each had three and Taj Ringer two.
“Obviously, [South Pasadena] has some talented guys that came in that are athletic for them, so we had a lot of challenges defensively,” San Marino coach Mihail Papadopulos said. “Against good teams, in a close game, it’s like small margins. So if you make a mistake here or there they capitalize on it on their side. I like the way our guys competed.”
San Marino (19-5 overall, 2-4 in league as of Jan. 23) held a one-point lead after an opening half that saw six ties and 15 lead changes.
The Titans started with the ball in the third quarter and Jack Fuerst promptly hit a 3-pointer.
South Pasadena (16-5, 5-1) responded with two free throws before Titan Bobby Reyes stole the ball and got an uncontested layup.
Peterson scored the next five points, giving the visitors the lead. Soon after, Fuerst stole the ball, leading to a layup to put the Titans up again at 43-42. However, South Pasadena followed with a 7-0 run to retake the lead and never looked back.
With 1:09 left in the third, the hosts pulled to within one after Titan Casey Chan drove the length of the court at breakneck speed for a basket while being fouled, after which he hit the free throw. The Tigers responded, scoring the next six points before Chan hit two from the charity stripe with two seconds left to make it 57-52 going into the final period.
“They got physical with us in that third quarter,” Papadopulos said. “I don’t think we played terrible, we just stalled a little bit.”
San Marino was still as close as five points with 2:57 left in the contest after sophomore Nicholas Chen made three straight free throws. However, the Tiger advantage reached double digits for the first time with 1:05 left. In the final minute, Chan drove in for a layup for the hosts’ final points. Tiger Jacob Arias made three free throws in the final 35 seconds to set the final margin.
San Marino was led in scoring by Chan with 16 points. Also reaching double digits was Jayden Tse, who had all 11 of his points in the first half, along with Reyes, who also had 11. Fuerst finished with 10 points.
The Titans were ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division III-A coming into the league matchup against the Tigers, but following the loss, San Marino slipped to No. 7 in the Jan. 22 poll.
The game opened with San Marino going on a 10-2 run. This included an 8-0 run to break the first tie of the game at 2-2. Tse hit a 3-point attempt from the corner assisted by Chan. Soon after, Reyes got a layup after a steal in the backcourt and the run finished with a make from long distance by Fuerst.
Later in the opening frame, South Pasadena went on a 10-0 tear to take the lead for the first time with less than two minutes to go, culminating with a 3-pointer by Arias. The teams traded the lead back and forth again before Tse hit a one-handed, midrange shot to end the quarter knotted at 19-19.
The second quarter saw the lead change hands 10 times and included three ties. The final deadlock of the first half came at 34-34, after Chin hit a free throw with 1:25 to go. With 1:17 left, freshman Marcus Chen swished two free throws before Williams hit one of two from the free throw line with 47 seconds left, allowing the hosts to go into the break with a 36-35 lead.
“There is a lot of animosity between the two teams that used to be one school,” Baskerville said. “The guys all know each other and there has been a lot of trash talk going back and forth. It feels good to be on top.”
ARCADIA 65, SOUTH PASADENA 61
The Tigers battled the Apaches in the Nick Sherman Legacy Showcase at Maranatha High in Pasadena on Jan. 20.
Peterson scored 29 points in the nonleague matchup against Arcadia, the No. 3-ranked team in CIF-SS Division III-AA.
Madison tallied 12 points and nine rebounds, Arias added eight points and Nowe scored six.
The Tigers were without Williams, who did not play due to injury.
South Pasadena will hit the road for its final two league games of the season after a pair of home games, one of which pitted the Tigers against La Cañada on Jan. 24 in a crucial league matchup. Details on that result will be included in the next edition of the Review.
The Tigers take on Monrovia High on the road on Tuesday, Jan. 30, followed by Blair in Pasadena on Thursday, Feb. 1, to close out the league campaign. South Pasadena hosts Hillcrest Christian on Friday, Feb. 2, ahead of the CIF-SS playoffs.
First published in the January 26 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.