First published in the Jan. 22 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
In a normal season, Burbank High and John Burroughs usually face one another in boys’ basketball twice, and at the start of this season it could have been even more as the Pacific League schools were to play in an upper and lower tier after the midway point.
However, COVID variant Omicron has altered plans and the league competition was reduced to a single round. This meant that when the Bears hosted the Bulldogs on Thursday, it would be the lone encounter between the intracity rivals, giving extra importance to the matchup.
It was Burroughs that secured city bragging rights for this season as the host Bears used a relentless defense to hold Burbank in check and win, 61-48, on Thursday evening.
“We are very athletic defensively and we are using that to our advantage,” Burroughs coach Allan Ellis said. “There are some things offensively we need to clean up, but defensively I thought we did a fantastic job and our defensive pressure was phenomenal.”
Burroughs (9-7 overall record, 3-3 in league) had led by as many as 14 points, but Burbank (5-9, 2-6) had whittled the advantage down to four entering the fourth quarter. It was then the Bears’ defense clamped down on Burbank as the visitors started to fade. Burroughs held the Bulldogs without a field goal in the final quarter, allowing only five points, with all of them coming from the charity stripe.
“We don’t have the bodies. We are just mentally worn down,” Burbank coach Sid Cooke said.
In the first three minutes of the period, the Bears drove the advantage back to double digits, culminating with a three-pointer by Desean Robinson after he found himself unguarded several feet beyond the arc and fired away. The host’s ninth and final three-pointer of the contest was made by Nick Schlander from the corner with less than a minute to go to account for the final margin of victory.
“We have a tendency to shoot a lot of three-point shots and we fall on the three,” Ellis said. “We just need to knock them down more consistently.”
The Burroughs advantage had peaked at 45-31 near the midway point of the third quarter following a three-point make from Robinson, but after that the Bulldogs pushed back. Burbank finished the period on a 12-2 run, ending with a basket by Sattwik Banerjee in the final minute to make it 47-43 going into the last stanza.
Burroughs was led in scoring by guard Jailen Jackson, who tallied a game-high 18 points, including four three-pointers.
“We came in with energy,” Jackson said. “We came in thinking we were going to win and that is exactly what we did.”
Chase Walker joined him in double digits with 10 points. Schlander chipped in nine while both Robinson and TJ Lumpkin scored eight apiece. Sam Horning had five and Jagger Topp added three points.
Burbank had three players in double digits, paced by Banerjee with 15 points. The other two were Phoenix Mosley and Arman Danielian, who each scored 10. Rounding out the scoring were Alex Emami and Nathan Contreras, who scored seven and six points, respectively.
The opening quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with the lead changing hands seven times. In the final minute, Danielian tied the score with a drive to the basket in the final minute, but that still left enough time on the clock for Walker to sink a jumper at the buzzer to take back the lead, 16-14, that the Bears would never again relinquish.
Burroughs asserted control in the second quarter, scoring the first six points with baskets from beyond the arc by Topp and then Jackson. The advantage first reached double digits when Jackson drained a three from the top of the key, making the score 29-18 with 3:12 to go before the break. Contreras scored the final points of the half on a three-pointer from the corner and the score at the break was 33-26.
“We’re playing good basketball now,” Ellis said. “We beat Pasadena earlier this week and we won yesterday against Marshall. We just beat Burbank. We are getting off to a good stretch. It’s all about the playoffs right now and trying to get this team ready to go and get them in a rhythm, and I think we have a good chance to go pretty far [in the postseason] if we start doing what we are supposed to do.”