BURBANK — Burroughs High's boys' basketball team was the team to beat after the first half of the Pacific League season. Not only were the Indians in first place, but they were undefeated.
However, in the second half of league, Burroughs has been eliminated from title contention and the Indians are just trying to hang on for victories
Although the Indians battled in their league game Tuesday against Muir, they came up short again — which has been the theme for the squad during the second half of league play.
On the strength of 30 points from Dejon Williams, the Mustangs were able to steal a win from host Burroughs in overtime, 73-70.
The loss was the fourth in the last six league games for the Indians (16-9, 8-5 in league). It also leaves them tied for third place in league with Muir (11-12, 8-5). Luckily for Burroughs, it already has an automatic CIF Southern Section playoff locked up. That's because even through fifth-place Burbank (12-13, 6-7) defeated Glendale Tuesday, 47-27, the Bulldogs are still two games behind the Indians and Mustangs with one game to play.
The top four finishers in league get automatic berths into the postseason.
It is the first time since the 2008-09 season that Burroughs has finished among the top four teams in the Pacific League. That year, the Indians ended in a three-way tie for second with Burbank and Crescenta Valley.
Burroughs will close out the regular season Thursday at home against Burbank.
"This leaves us battling it out with Muir for the third and fourth spots in league," Burroughs Coach Adam Hochberg said. "We have to come in ready to play Thursday against Burbank."
The Indians suffered from the same problem against Muir on Tuesday that they did when the Mustangs earned a 71-69 victory Jan. 21. They just couldn't come up with a way to stop Williams. The senior guard continually zig-zagged his way around the Burroughs defense and converted on his share of long-range shots. Williams' game-high 30 points included seven three-pointers.
"My teammates and I train for big games like this," said Williams, who also had four steals. "We have been to overtime in league a lot of times this year, so we knew what to expect and we knew what it took to win a game in overtime. We just played hard all game and we never gave up."
The loss might have overshadowed a fine performance from Burroughs senior Amaad Wainright. Despite being hobbled with a hamstring injury, Wainright led his team with 27 points to go along with 12 rebounds, six steals and five assists. Teammate David Schwer chipped in 16 points and Steve Hubbell contributed 10.
In the overtime period, Burroughs was able to take a 62-61 lead with 3:36 remaining following two free throws by Schwer. The Mustangs came back, however, surging ahead, 67-64, on a bank-shot three-pointer by Williams with 2:50 left.
The Indians only trailed by one with 1:26 remaining until back-to-back baskets by Muir's Arinze Anakwenenze and Kelvin Turrentine gave the Mustangs a five-point lead, 73-68, with 1.3 seconds left. But the Indians caught a break when Turrentine was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
Hubbell went to the line and sank both of his free throws to bring the Indians to within three, 73-70. Burroughs had one last shot to tie the score with 1.3 seconds left, but lost the ball out of bounds as time expired.
"We had some defensive breakdowns and we missed some shots and some free throws I thought we should have made," Hochberg said. "In the overtime, I thought we tried to just hold on instead of attacking and doing the things that we had done earlier.
"This one is gonna hurt because we felt like we let this one slip away."
After trailing in the first quarter, 24-16, and at the half, 32-28, Burroughs made a surge in the third quarter. Trailing by 10 points, 31-41, the Indians embarked on a 14-0 run over the final 3:42 and ended the third with a three-point cushion, 45-41.
The Indians looked to be in command in the fourth quarter, enjoying a seven-point lead twice, the last at 56-49 with 3:50 remaining. But the Mustangs slowly chipped away at the lead and when Williams converted two free throws with 3.9 seconds left, Muir had tied the score at 60.
Muir almost won the contest on the last play of regulation. With Burroughs inbounding the ball under its own basket, Turrentine stepped in front of the pass, stole the ball and put up a shot. The ball rolled around the rim and came out as the buzzer sounded.