San Fernando Coach Dick Crowell pleads with his players during timeouts.
"Please put five passes together like we do in practice," he says. "Why can't you do that?"
But that is not San Fernando's style. The Tigers are forward Shelton Boykin taking the jump shot the first time he touches the ball, or guard Joe Mauldin slam-dunking one time down the floor, then throwing a full-court pass as if he were still quarterbacking the school's football team the next time.
Despite the coach's protests, such play has worked well for San Fernando this season. However, Wednesday afternoon the flying Tigers ran into rock-solid Granada Hills, a team known for its slow-down game, passing and diligent rebounding. And Granada Hills proved that patience is still a virtue.
The Highlanders' 74-68 win at San Fernando gives them a 5-2 record and sole possession of second place in the Northwest Valley League. It also avenges an upset to the Tigers on Granada Hills' home court earlier this season.
San Fernando slipped to 4-3 in league and 10-8 overall in spite of--or perhaps because of--the break-neck play of Boykin, who had 22 points, Mauldin, who added 18 mostly on fast-break layups, and center Charles Thomas, who had 16.
"They're all over the court. They want to run, score as fast as they can and then pressure you on defense," said Granada Hills center Gary Gray. "If you get in a running game with them you're dead. We didn't do that today."
Instead, the Highlanders persistently passed the ball around the perimeter, looking either for Gray inside, or a jump shot along the base line. They found both of those opportunities often enough to give the center 24 points and guard Sam Puathasnanon 20.
Granada Hills (13-4 overall) also tended the boards, out-rebounding San Fernando, 40-24. Gray grabbed 19 rebounds. Thomas had nine for San Fernando.
At the start, the Tigers' running game kept Granada Hills off balance and the Highlanders turned the ball over. San Fernando took advantage of those mistakes on fast breaks but fell short at the free-throw line, hitting only 1 of 7 shots. Most of those misses came on the front end of one-and-ones.
It was to be that way all night for the Tigers. They finished 6 of 15 from the line.
Granada Hills eventually slowed the pace, ran its half-court offense and worked the boards for a 25-12 rebounding edge. The Highlanders went into halftime leading, 37-35.
The third quarter opened with Mauldin and Boykin scoring on back-to-back alley-oop plays--vintage San Fernando basketball. The Tigers also put some rebounding pressure on Granada Hills, getting second and third chances on offense. Mauldin slam-dunked off the fast break and San Fernando led, 50-49.
But Granada Hills Coach Bob Johnson wasn't about to panic.
"San Fernando plays in spurts," Johnson said. "So if you can keep those spurts to a minimum, you'll be all right."
Hanging on to a one-point lead going into the final quarter, Granada Hills stuck with what it does best, keeping the ball moving around the outside and waiting for the open man. Gray hit on three straight turn-around jumpers from inside the key and Puathasnanon was 4 for 4 from the free-throw line.
The Highlanders slowly but surely built a 10-point lead. San Fernando very quickly ran ragged and let the game slip away.
"When we get behind, people start to run their own show. We need to slow it down," Mauldin said. Then he added, a little sheepishly, "But we are more comfortable with a fast-paced game."
On the sidelines, Coach Crowell could only shake his head.
GRANADA HILLS--Brown 4, Lytle 2, Gray 24, Puathasnanon 20, Smith 15, Dahan 5, Johnson 2, Jan 2.
SAN FERNANDO--Boykin 22, Hill 4, Thomas 16, Mauldin 18, Stephens 4, Brox 4.