PASADENA — If the Burroughs High basketball team needed a reminder about how tough it can be to stay atop the Pacific League, it received a huge nudge Tuesday evening.
The Indians had played some tough games during their first five league contests, but had survived to go undefeated. Muir has also been tested, having to go to overtime three times in its first five contests — including a five-overtime thriller against Burbank.
Against Burroughs, the thrills were provided by Muir's Dejon Williams, who poured in a game-high 44 points to lift the host Mustangs to a 71-69 victory against the Indians.
Suffering its first league loss, Burroughs (13-3, 5-1 in league) now shares the league lead with Pasadena (10-8, 5-1), which earned a 76-52 win against Arcadia on Tuesday.
"We didn't come in with the right mental energy and that was something that hurt us," Burroughs Coach Adam Hochberg said. "They just wanted it more for 32 minutes. They played hard and they earned it.
"We knew we weren't going to go through league undefeated, but I didn't think we were going to lose tonight. The better team doesn't always win every night."
In most of their Pacific League games this season, the Indians have established a solid inside game on the shoulders of transfer seniors Amaad Wainright and Rashid Ewing. However, against Muir (6-9, 3-3), Burroughs chose instead to concentrate on shooting the ball from three-point range.
The plan didn't work out very well. In fact, Burroughs struggled with its shooting throughout the contest. A good example of its struggles was a first half that saw the team convert just one of 19 three-point attempts.
"I thought we settled and maybe we took too many," Hochberg said about his team's three-point shooting. "But that's what we do as a team."
Wainright, who came into the contest averaging 25.9 points a game and 28 in league, had a fine effort for Burroughs, scoring a team-high 37 to go along with eight rebounds. However, the Indians' next-highest scorer was Steven Hubbell, who had eight to go with 10 rebounds.
After trailing by seven early in the fourth quarter, the Indians slowly clawed their way back. When Wainright made good on a basket with 1:36 remaining, Burroughs had trimmed the deficit to two, 67-64. The Indians got to that point by finally making good on three three-pointers.
However, a potential game-tying three-ball from the right corner with 46 seconds remaining was off the mark. After Williams converted two free throws with 28 seconds remaining, Wainright slashed to the basket for a layup with 20 seconds left to again make it a three-point game, 69-66.
But on the ensuing possession, Williams was fouled again and again converted his two attempts with 17 seconds left. Burroughs took four three-point attempts in the final seconds and made good on the final try at the buzzer.
"Our threes really did kill us," Wainright said. "They were all good shots, we just couldn't knock 'em down."
The Mustangs and Indians engaged in a tight battle early in the game, as the score was tied at 18 after one quarter and Muir took a 35-31 advantage into halftime. The Mustangs increased their advantage to 10 after three quarters, 52-42.