By Christian Romo
Pasadena junior Jesse Watkins (20) lied on his stomach in front of the bench pretending to swim, surrounded by teammates jumping out of their seats and howling towards midcourt. But it wasn’t a hard foul that got Watkins to the ground, just a routine steal leading to a transition dunk. At least in this game, all the steals and dunks seemed routine.
Building off a defense that allowed only 13 first-half points, the PHS Bulldogs (10-5) beat the Arcadia Apaches (8-7), 68-42, Monday night in Arcadia. Junior Bryce Hamilton, the Bulldog’s leading scorer, asserted an inside presence that thwarted the Apache frontcourt. Though stifling enough for a comfortable victory, Hamilton sought more effort from his team’s defense.
“We gave them single digit quarters [in the first half], but in the second half we gave up too many points. It’s unacceptable,” he said. Sophomore Darius Brown (2) had a similar assessment: “I think we gave up too many points in the second half…we need to play better defense, but overall, it was a good performance.”
PHS coach Tony Brooks wasn’t as critical of the team as his players were. “There are some excellent things that we did, but I’m looking for consistency, determination, and executing the game plan every second of every minute of the game.” Though he says the defense got complacent as the game progressed, he highlighted his players’ unselfish offense. “When we were able to extend, we were looking for each other for easy baskets, and not just falling in love with the three-point line.”
Arcadia second-year coach Donte Bell criticized his team’s effort and performance. “They didn’t execute right, didn’t box out, didn’t follow the game plan,” he said. Arcadia’s offense picked up in the second half, more than doubling their first half output, but it wasn’t nearly enough against the defending Pacific League champions. “We’re a good team when we give effort, but when we come out like this with lackluster effort, this is what the outcome is going to be.”
Late in the third quarter, a PHS steal found a transitioning Brown, who set up an alley-oop dunk off the backboard for sophomore Darius Mason (3). The Bulldogs stole the ball again on the next possession, and this time Hamilton set up his own dunk, thrilling the visiting crowd and sending Watkins swimming off the bench. “In practice, we do a lot of fast break drills,” said Brown, “so whenever we get the steal, everybody wants to see a dunk.”
With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 3-0 in league play, while the Apaches fell to 1-2. PHS continues their road trip at Burbank this Wednesday at 5 p.m., while Arcadia hopes to bounce back hosting Muir this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.