Playoff chases have funny moments of irony at times. Bitter rivals often find themselves cheering for one another in the season’s final games with their postseason fate impacted by the effort of others.
Burroughs boys’ basketball has struggled again this season. The Indians have rarely been healthy this season and they lack the depth to absorb injuries like the ones that plagued them through the first two months of the season.
On February 7 a now healthy Burroughs team who had actually been able to start the same line-up in consecutive games put together its best effort of the season, blasting the Glendale Nitros 68-38, and slowing their march to the post season.
The win improved the Indians to just 2-11 in league and 9-17 overall but showed that they were committed to the role of spoilers. Their rivals, the Burbank Bulldogs were busy getting back to .500 overall (13-13) and moving into a fourth place tie with Glendale in the Pacific League at 5-8 in league.
“We are just focused on playing our best ball at the end and showing what we might have been able to do a little healthier and a little more fortunate at times this year,” Burroughs head coach Adam Hochberg said late Tuesday. “We have had moments where we just looked lost and our effort lapsed for stretches this year — that didn’t happen tonight. We took charge early and we never let go.”
Zeke Zuniga and Jorge Flores-Pere each scored a game-high 17 points for Burroughs. They both missed the entire preseason with injuries and are just now in the game shape it takes to play for four quarters. Burroughs shot over 50% from the floor for one of the few times this season. It led by five after one quarter of play and 37-21 at the half after two long scoring runs in the second quarter.
If Burroughs puts together a similar effort again against Burbank it could spoil the Bulldogs revived playoff hopes. Burbank loses the tie breaker to Glendale, having been swept by the Nitros this season. Glendale has to deal with its rival, Hoover, tonight. Although the Tornadoes are also a two-win team in league, one of their victories was against their crosstown rivals, Glendale, on January 20.
Burbank beat Burroughs 70-59 on January 20, although the games was extremely close early. A sweep of the Indians and a Glendale loss would give the Bulldogs the final automatic playoff berth out of the Pacific League. What could be as important, a win would move them to 14-13 overall and increase the likelihood that they could earn an at-large berth.