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South Pasadena Boys’ Basketball Wins CIF Opener, Falls in Second Round

By Nathan Cambridge
The Review

South Pasadena High won the boys’ basketball Rio Hondo League title and earned a home game to kick off the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs hosting Sunny Hills, which made the trip from Fullerton.
After a slow start against the visiting Lancers, South Pasadena got it going and easily outdistanced Sunny Hills for a 72-41 win to advance to the second round, after bowing out last season in the playoff opener.
“We came out a little sluggish,” South Pasadena coach Ernest Baskerville said. “I think it was playoff jitters. A lot of these guys were probably a little nervous because we lost in the first round last year, and that put a lot of pressure on them. I think they were a little nervous in the first quarter, second quarter picked it up, third and fourth we picked it up.”
The Tigers’ Russell Williams led in scoring with 22 points. The senior had six of his team’s eight 3-pointers and was the only player to score in all four quarters.
“One down and four to go,” Williams said. “We can’t get too excited off this win. We’ve just got to keep pushing forward and play the way we did today, just foot on the gas the whole time.”
South Pasadena (22-6 overall; Rio Hondo League champion) never trailed in the contest, but it was only 14-6 in favor of the hosts, with eight points coming from Williams, after the opening quarter against Sunny Hills, an at-large entry from the Freeway League.
Tiger Jacob Arias pushed the advantage to double digits for the first time with a layup to open the scoring in the second quarter, in which the hosts outscored the Lancers 21-10. Later in the frame, in the span of just over 30 seconds off the game clock, Tiger Derek Peterson went on a solo 7-0 run. It started with a layup while the hosts went four-on-five, as Oni Balogun had lost a shoe at the other end. The senior then was fouled on a fast-break layup, made the free throw and finished the run with two more makes from the charity stripe the next time down the floor. Tiger Sebastian Martinez made a layup for the final points of the first half and South Pasadena led 35-16 at the break.
In the opening moments of the third, the lead ballooned past 20 points when Williams made a 3-pointer off an assist by Martinez. Sunny Hills did its best to hang with the Tigers, but the roster assembled by South Pasadena was just too loaded for the Lancers.
“We knew it was going to be a tough challenge for us. [South Pasadena] is really good,” Sunny Hills coach Joe Oak said. “They have two guys that are college-level players in Williams and Peterson, and even a guy like Jack Madison is going to end up playing college basketball somewhere, I think.”
The lead peaked in the later stages of the fourth quarter as the Tigers went on a 9-0 run for a 33-point lead with 1:43 to go.
“We have strong guard defenders, and having them pressure the ball early, I think we kind of wore their guys down over time. Especially in the second half, you could see a lot of them needing a sub, needing to get air,” Baskerville said.
Along with Williams, two other Tigers scored in double digits, with Peterson and Arias scoring 15 and 10 points, respectively. Madison had seven points and Martinez six. South Pasadena got 12 points off the bench, with Miles Nowe and Balogun each scoring five apiece and Taj Ringer two.
“Really getting into our groove,” said Martinez of the key to the opening-round win. “That was pretty much it: just getting into our groove, understanding the defense and moving the ball. When we play as a team, it is pretty hard to stop us. That is what it took — just moving the ball around and play hard defense.”
No one on Sunny Hills (16-13) finished in double-digit scoring.
“It’s just one of those things. You are on the road and you are in someone else’s gym and the shots aren’t falling,” Oak said. “We were happy we were getting the looks, but they just weren’t going. It was sort of a slow bleed and, eventually, once [the Tigers] started going and showed what they do, you could see why they are the No. 2 seed.”

The Tigers lost at Valley View High in Moreno Valley 74-73 in the second round of the CIF-SS Division III-AA playoffs on Feb. 9.
Williams poured in 22 points with five rebounds, three steals and one block, while Madison posted a double-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, two steals and two assists.
Peterson finished with 16 points, three steals, three assists and two rebounds, while Arias registered 14 points, five rebounds, four steals and two assists. Martinez chipped in five points, five assists, two rebounds and one steal, while sophomore Kaden Anderson tallied two points, two assists, two rebounds and one steal.
The Tigers finished the campaign as Rio Hondo League champions for the first time in over three decades with a 9-1 record (23-7 overall).

— Sebastian Moore contributed to this report.

First published in the February 16 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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