On paper, the No. 5-seeded La Cañada High School varsity boys’ basketball team was the favorite in a CIF State Division 2 first-round playoff game against visiting No. 12 Cathedral Catholic of San Diego.
However, LCHS head coach Tom Hofman knew exactly what his squad was up against and was not disappointed when the Spartans fell to the Dons, 67-55, on Tuesday, ending their stellar season.
“We battled and gave them a good game,” Hofman said. “We needed to hit everything to beat a team like them. They defended us real well in the perimeter. The kids, as they did all year, battled and showed heart and never gave up.”
Cathedral Catholic (24-9 overall record) boasts a balanced squad with five athletes 6-5 or taller. Zach Feehan is the only Spartan taller than 6-5.
“That’s a big team with a good defense,” Hofman said. “When you’re that long, you can stay away from fouls. I thought [the referees] missed a couple of calls early, but we needed to come out on fire against that type of team.”
The Dons won the CIF San Diego Section Division 1 championship prior to competing in the state tournament.
“San Diego teams are under-ranked every single year,” Hofman said. “Two years ago, these guys were ranked No. 16 and they beat [Chatsworth] Sierra Canyon. They just don’t rank San Diego teams very well.”
La Cañada (27-7 overall) kept up with Cathedral Catholic early and only trailed the visitors 15-12 after the first quarter.
But the second quarter was rough for the home team. Shots just weren’t falling for the Spartans, who were limited to only four points. Scotty Prunty hit two consecutive 3-pointers late in the quarter to help the Dons build a 32-16 lead at the half.
The Spartans showed signs of life in the fourth quarter when Ryan Grande hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to eight points. However, the Spartans missed shots from beyond the arc on their next two possessions, allowing Cathedral Catholic to pull away for a double-digit lead.
Ryan Graves led LCHS with 16 points and four assists, and Kyle Brown added 15 points and six rebounds. Grande netted 11 points, Noah Ford finished with seven points and five rebounds and Jake George had five points.
Feehan, who set the program’s new single-season rebounding record, was limited against the Dons. He suffered a sore back and finished with only one point and three rebounds in just under 20 minutes of play.
“He did a great job for us,” Hofman said. “His back was so sore. We had to shoot 3-pointers and that’s why he wasn’t in as much. It’s frustrating.”
Nine players suited up as Spartans for the final time. The seniors who will be graduating include Riley Eng, Liam Bui, John Hickman, Tyler Kuang, Garrett Kremer, Graves, Feehan, Ford and George.
“They’re a phenomenal class,” Hofman said. “Every coach that has coached them loved them. They
worked hard and had great respect for the program. They will be great parents someday and great people in the community. It’s hard for this year to come to an end because it was so much fun.”
Hofman will lose his top scorer, best rebounder and leaders to graduation, but he will be able to count on players such as Grande and Brown next season.
“We will be OK,” he said. “We’ll be a lot smaller and have a different look. We’ll probably be more up-tempo and have to shoot more 3-pointers. We will miss Zach inside, and Jake and Ryan. Not just for their scoring, but for their great leadership.”