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Williams Earns All-CIF Honor Following Historic Boys’ Basketball Season

An injury sidelined South Pasadena High senior Russell Williams for a few games during the Tigers’ run to the Rio Hondo League boys’ basketball title, but upon his return to the squad, he did not skip a beat.
A historic league campaign turned into a CIF Southern Section playoff run where the Tigers competed in Division III-AA and reached the second round. In both playoff contests, Williams spearheaded the South Pasadena offense.
For his efforts, Williams earned all-CIF first-team accolades, extending the streak of South Pasadena players earning the postseason honor.
“I’m grateful for it,” said Williams of the award. “I was out for a couple of games because I had a calf strain, but I’m very appreciative of all the coaches.”
Williams, who transferred from Maranatha High School in Pasadena in his sophomore year, is a four-year varsity player. He was selected to the all-CIF second team last season.
“It was pretty much everything [coach] said it was going to be,” said Williams of the transfer. “Classrooms were great. Academics were great. Sports were great. Teammates were great. … It was just a fun season, and I couldn’t complain about anything.”
It’s the fifth year in a row that a South Pasadena player was selected to the all-CIF team, all under coach Ernest Baskerville’s tenure.
“I love the fact that he’s getting his flowers,” Baskerville said. “I’ve been a head coach for 27 years and I have fond memories of a lot of guys but he’s one of the easiest kids to coach.”
Baskerville added: “It’s just good to have guys get recognized.”
South Pasadena opened the playoffs as the No. 2-seeded team in Division III-AA. The Tigers began their journey with a comfortable 72-41 victory over Sunny Hills of Fullerton, a win in which Williams scored 22 points on 6 of 7 3-point shooting.
The playoff run was cut short in the second round. Williams scored a team-high 22 points, but it was not enough as the Tigers suffered a one-point loss to Valley View in Moreno Valley.
“I don’t take back anything,” Williams said. “Everything that we did as a team — all the small things and all the practices and stuff throughout the year — led us to winning first place in Rio Hondo League.
“We could’ve gone further in playoffs, but we did our best and there’s nothing I would take back. Being first team all-CIF is probably the last thought on my mind. I just happened to get it and I’m grateful for it, but to be part of the team this year is great, and I don’t take anything back.”
South Pasadena finished 23-7 overall and won its first outright Rio Hondo League title in more than three decades with a 9-1 league record. The Tigers usurped La Cañada for the league crown, ending the Spartans’ near decades-long reign.
“I’m blessed to be part of the team to win it because it had been so long since South Pas won it without it being a tie — just straight up first place,” said Williams, who is still undecided on what college to attend. “It was a fun season. Lost one against La Cañada, but then fortunately, they lost against us and someone else, so that gave us the top [spot]. It was fun. I’m grateful for being part of the team that won it.”
Senior Derek Peterson was awarded Rio Hondo League MVP, while junior Jack Madison joined Williams on the all-league first team. Peterson and Williams capped their careers surpassing 1,500 points scored.
Williams averaged 21.2 points per game for the Tigers and their second leading scorer. The senior also grabbed 4.5 rebounds and averaged 2.7 assists per game. He regularly disrupted South Pasadena opponents, averaging 2.1 steals a game. He was also the leader in 3-point shooting, making 46% of his shots from distance.
“It was a pleasure to have him the years we had him,” said Baskerville of Williams. “He made the games so much easier. People couldn’t play us zone because he would just bust the zone open.”
Williams scored a season-high 34 points in a 94-69 Rio Hondo League victory over Blair on Jan. 19 and finished a game with more than 30 points on three occasions. Another key victory for the Tigers was a resounding 112-76 league win over rival San Marino to snap the Titans’ 13-game win streak.
“Beating La Cañada and winning league, even though it took help from San Marino to win it, we still got it, and that’s all that matters,” Baskerville said.
“I really value the championship of the league because it was the first time we won it over 30-something years,” he added.
With a league crown under their belt, the Tigers look to defend the title against their rivals with key returners next season.
“I’m just really excited with what’s to come [with] these guys next year,” Baskerville said.

Tigers senior Derek Peterson was named Rio Hondo League MVP as South Pasadena captured their first boys basketball league title in more than three decades

First published in the April 4 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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