Sylmar High learned a valuable lesson Wednesday at San Fernando: Never underestimate an opponent with nothing to lose.
The Spartans played lackadaisically and the Tigers rose up for a 61-58 victory that dropped Sylmar into a tie with Monroe atop the Valley Mission League standings.
Sylmar (13-10, 8-1 in league play) hosts Monroe (18-6, 8-1) Friday for the league title.
"They just wanted it more than us," Coach Bort Escoto of Sylmar said. "It's hard to get up for a game like this. They did, we didn't."
Senior guard Maike Hernandez scored 15 of his 24 points in the first half for San Fernando (13-9, 5-4).
John Valdez had 17 points and nine rebounds for Sylmar.
Steve Nevarez scored 10 points and his brother, Ruben, added eight for the Tigers, none more important than a three-point play that gave the Tigers a 61-55 lead with 12 seconds left.
George O'Garro made a three-pointer to pull Sylmar to within 61-58 with two seconds left, but Tom Hoohuli inbounded the ball to Jose Montez and the Tigers ran out the clock.
San Fernando kept its playoff hopes alive and avenged its worst loss of the season, 88-73, last month at Sylmar.