AZUSA — The South Pasadena High boys varsity basketball team took home the trophy at the Azusa Tournament after a 79-71 championship win on Wednesday against El Monte — giving the Tigers a convincing 4-0 start to the season.
The three-day tournament placed the Tigers against Arroyo High on Monday, and after that 62-31 win, they faced Bell Gardens on Tuesday and beat them, 63-52.
Prior to the championship game, it was the first 3-0 start for Tigers in five seasons — and it’s a complete turn-around from last season’s 0-8 start.
New head coach Ernest Baskerville said it feels good to start the season with a fourth win — and a tournament win at that.
“We’re happy that we won a tournament,” he said. “Our school hasn’t won a tournament in a very long time, so that’s good for us. To come get a win here is good.”
El Monte came out of the halftime break with a strategy that got the Aztecs back into the game in the third quarter. They shot well and defended South Pas well to tie the game at 48 a piece with less than two minutes left in the quarter — but that didn’t last long. The Tigers were able to extend their lead again with senior guard Billy Reed on the bench.
“We had a couple of people step up and get minutes and score some points,” Baskerville said. “We can’t be known as a one-trick pony. We have to have other horses that can get out and race. … We got a lot of back-door layups, a lot of good ball movement, a lot of high post action to low post. That’s what we try to do. You have to use all facets of the game — you can’t just shoot the three.”
The Tigers started the fourth quarter strong and, after playing solid defense in the end, South Pas pulled its starters and finished off the game.
Reed had a double-double against El Monte with 26 points and 10 rebounds — and he finished Monday’s game with 26 points as well.
Senior guard Rodney Ortega finished Wednesday’s game with 11 points and junior guard Amar Ebrahim had 14 points.
Despite the strong start, Baskerville doesn’t think the Tigers are at full potential just yet.
“Our zone offense is sloppy, we’re still passing the ball and throwing it away — I want to be in full motion in February,” he said. “We want to be solid right now — just solid. I don’t want to be excellent. If we can be solid in the beginning and then move to excellent, that’ll be great.”
The team has a game at Duarte on Thursday and then will get ready for the Grizzly Classic at Calvary Chapel tournament next week. The tournament will be at Calvary Chapel in Downey, and the Tigers will face Artesia on Monday at 3 p.m. to start it off.