BURBANK — A potential blowout for the Burbank High girls' basketball team nearly turned into a blown victory in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs on Saturday evening.
The Pacific League third-place Bulldogs led by as many as 14 points before holding their collective breath and holding back visiting El Toro, which cut that deficit to one possession before running out of steam in a 53-41 victory for host Burbank.
With the win, the Bulldogs (16-12) advance to Wednesday's second round, likely at second-seeded Moreno Valley Canyon Springs (15-9) at 7 p.m.
"It got scary because we just got a little too complacent," said Burbank senior center Courtney Seidler, who led her squad with 16 points. "We got overconfident and out of our game a little bit. Luckily, we responded in time."
Burbank matched its largest lead of the contest of 14 points at the 2:31 mark of the third quarter when a steal and coast-to-coast layup from junior guard Sharis Ghazeri (nine points and two steals) put the Bulldogs up, 44-30, and led to a timeout from El Toro Coach Erin Schimeneck.
Out of the break, the South Coast League third-place Chargers (11-16) scored the last five points of the quarter, including a three-pointer from Meagan Ballard as time expired.
The Chargers' momentum continued into the fourth quarter as Ballard again connected from deep off an assist from Whitney Williams (team-high 16 points and five steals) with 7:27 remaining that brought the visitors within 44-38.
This time, Burbank Coach Bruce Breeden called a timeout, which did not stem the tide as the Chargers pulled within 44-41 on a three-pointer from Christen Morris with 5:15 remaining.
Breeden called another timeout and both teams went scoreless over the next 2 1/2 minutes until senior Aja Locke converted an offensive rebound and put-back basket with 2:38 remaining.
"After we got that basket, I think we all kind of relaxed," said Locke, who added eight points. "We were real nervous to that point and that helped us settled down."
The bucket marked the Bulldogs' first field goal in 7 minutes and 22 seconds and countered the Chargers' 11-0 run.
Off the Locke score, Burbank responded with a jumper from Ashley Linda and an inside basket from Jamie Gonzalez (11 points, 10 rebounds and four steals) in going up, 51-41, with 1:28 left and putting the game away.
"El Toro figured out our defense and we on the floor didn't make adjustments as we got a little rattled," Breeden said. "When I called a timeout, I made it real simple. I told the team we're not playing to lose.
"We came out, got aggressive and got some easy baskets."
The Bulldogs also held a 14-point lead in the first half before settling for a 34-24 advantage at the break.
The Bulldogs' lead was whittled away to 26-20 on a jumper from Williams with 4:22 remaining in the first half.
Burbank, though, responded with a three-point play from Seidler, who was fouled while making a layup. Seidler sank her follow-up free throw with 4:12 left that gave Burbank a nine-point advantage.
Seidler's three-point play marked the beginning of an 8-0 run capped by a free throw from Seidler with 1:04 remaining as Burbank led, 34-20.
El Toro sapped some momentum before the break as the Chargers answered with a three-pointer from Hannah Carson and a free throw from Williams before the half.
Burbank led, 13-9, at the 3:17 mark in the first quarter when it created some separation via a 9-4 run that included a three-pointer from Gonzalez with 13 seconds left that put the home team up, 22-11, as Burbank eventually led, 22-13, after the first.