The girls entered Tuesday night’s contest against Temple City needing a win to vault themselves into a tie with the Rams for second place in the Rio Hondo League.
Hanging on to a three-point lead as the 4th quarter got underway, Tigers’ guard Flannery Clark brought the ball into the front court and swung it over to senior Nicole Krusic. Space on the perimeter between the wing and the corner was open all evening for South Pas, and this time Krusic found sophomore small forward Megan Yee for a three pointer to extend the lead to six, 30-24.
A pair of buckets by Rams’ senior Penelopi Trieu cut the South Pasadena advantage to one just two minutes later. However, Temple City couldn’t sustain a run and the Tigers responded immediately.
Center Lauren Kafkaloff hit a difficult bank shot, Yee forced a Temple City turnover with full court, defensive pressure on the ensuing possession and Kafkaloff capped off the run with an offensive rebound and put back to increase the Tigers’ lead to 34-29.
There were just under two minutes remaining in the game when senior Tiffany Holmes hit a free throw to give the Tigers a three-point lead.
The critical possession came with 40 seconds remaining on the game clock. Nursing a one-point lead, the girls ran the shot clock down by passing the ball around the perimeter.
Their conservative strategy paid off. With 15 seconds on the game clock and the shot clock nearing zero, Krusic hit a three from that space between the wing and the corner to give South Pas a 4-point lead. The Tigers’ bench exploded in excitement.
The Rams made the ending dramatic when Hana Trieu hit a step back three pointer to bring it to one with nine seconds on the game clock. But guard Kayla Zhang caught a dangerous inbounds pass seconds later and hit two free throws to extend the Tiger lead to three.
A Temple City heave as the seconds ran off the clock was errant, giving the Tigers a 40-37 victory. The girls swarmed around each other in celebration, falling in a heap under the opposing basket.
It was the final home game for Holmes and Krusic. Of Holmes, Masden said, “Tiffany has been the heart and soul of our program for four years, I’m going to miss coaching her.”
Of Krusic, “Nicole is the only player I have had the privilege of coaching since her freshman year. I couldn’t have asked for a better player to represent our basketball program.”
Of the victory, Masden just wiped his brow and shook his head.
Assistant coach Jaron Musmann was still recovering from the game when he explained afterwards that Krusic’s three pointer with 15 seconds left wasn’t designed exactly the way it played out. “Nicole was supposed to come underneath the basket to the other side and take a three from there,” he said, smiling, “but hey, that’s Nicole, she came back to the ball and hit a huge shot.”