Playing for one CIF Southern Section championship in a major sport isn’t enough to satisfy Burbank High during the 2016-17 school year.
Duplicating the effort of the football team, the Bulldogs boys’ basketball team has also advanced to a championship contest.
Friday night the host Bulldogs pulled off one of the greatest victories in school history in any sport by defeating third-seeded Rancho Mirage 76-71 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA semifinals.
Rancho Mirage enjoyed a tremendous height advantage in that no Burbank starter was as tall as the shortest starter for the visitors.
“They’ve been talking to us ever since we got into the playoffs. They’ve been telling us nonstop to stay focused and take one game at a time, don’t let it slip away. They’ve been really good mentors for us,” Burbank’s Faraz Khandaker said of the football players. “We’ve been battling with size since we were sophomores. Sometimes it is heart over height.”
Burbank (23-8) trailed by as many as 12 points in the first quarter. The Bulldogs were down 40-27 with 2:26 left in the first half as Rancho Mirage star Charles Neal was on fire. Neal scored 15 of his team-high 23 points in the first half. Michael Woods hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half to cut the deficit to 41-35.
Every time it looked like Rancho Mirage (28-4) was on the verge of pulling away, Burbank would answer back.
The Bulldogs took their first lead of the game with 2:50 left on a three-pointer by Woods to make it 68-67. He finished with a game-high 30 points.
Rancho Mirage re-took the lead twice more before Burbank went up 72-71 on a goaltending call following a shot by Thomas Clark.
“I feel like in the second half we pulled it together,” Woods said. “Nobody wants to go home, we want to keep playing. I never thought this was going to happen. Coach (Jamayne) Potts came in and he helped us out. We were struggling my freshman and sophomore year.”
Potts said keeping his team under control was the key.
“I told them one at a time don’t panic. I said play harder, play smarter, but don’t panic,” the second-year Burbank coach said. “That’s what they did.”
Burbank will face Brentwood in the CIF championship game at a site, time and date to be determined.
It will be Burbank’s first appearance in a CIF championship in basketball since 1926, when the Bulldogs lost 12-8 to Anaheim in the Class C title game. As a school, Burbank will be looking for its first CIF title since 1993 when the boys’ tennis team captured the Division 3 crown.
Burbank has two just two players, sophomores Eric Harutyunyan and Duncan Smith, who also played on the football team.
“Too bad the football team couldn’t get it,” Woods said of a CIF title. “We saw how the football team felt. We just have to go as hard as we can to bring one to the city of Burbank.”
Khandaker and Clark each had 12 points. Ben Chavez had eight points, Abdullah Kobaissi had six, Cameron Sweeten five and Henrik Anassian three points.