By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
PASADENA.—When George Toyama and Timmy Wong emerged from the Muir High School gym late Friday, they were greeted by dozens of supporters who have cheered and supported the pair since they first began bouncing a basketball 14 years ago. As they fell into hugs and received pats on the back, the longtime friends and teammates had just finished a bruising battle that found them in an unfamiliar position—as opponents.
Toyama and Wong were key components in the CIF Southern Section Div. II-A semifinals Friday, which saw Toyama’s Pasadena High Bulldogs shake off the memories of second-round playoff exits the last two years with a 63-48 win over Wong and Mark Keppel. Pasadena now advances to the division championship at Honda Center Saturday, against top-seeded Eiseinhower at 12:30 p.m.
Friday’s semifinal at Muir, a neutral site and home to the Bulldogs’ historic crosstown rival, was a complete sellout. Waves of fans—and even a Rafu reporter—were turned away by the local fire marshal. The building rocked from the outset, with Pasadena (24-6) using their inside height advantage to take early control.
Wong who is half Japanese and half Chinese, led all scorers with 19 for
Keppel (24-6), who found a renewed defense after halftime and did their best to keep Pasadena shooting from the perimeter. But that didn’t fare well either, as the Bulldogs were solid from all areas of the court, and Keppel’s seven turnovers in the third quarter helped Pasadena build an insurmountable lead.
Wong took a beating throughout the game, earning every one of his five of 15 from the field, including a pair of late clutch three-pointers to keep Keppel within striking distance in their first ever semifinal. By the middle of the fourth-quarter, however, the Aztecs were simply fatigued by their opponents, who won going away.
Chris Bridges paced Pasadena with 17 points and removed any wind the Aztecs had in their sails with five steals in the third quarter.
“Timmy’s a great player,” said Pasadena head coach Tim Tucker after the win. “I knew we wanted to keep pressure on him, to keep two or three different guys on him and that was the key. We knew if we could slow him down and keep him from making big plays, then we had a good chance to win.”
“We knew we could compete tonight, we just had to come in here, play our best and execute, and unfortunately, we just had an off night,” said Keppel head coach Hung Duong. “We got good looks, but toward the end, we just got tired and couldn’t make shots.”
Toyama bounced from the locker room with a broad smile and shouts and yelps funneled out from inside. He said his entire team felt they had removed the two-year yoke of failure with the victory.
“Not my highest scoring game, but we came out with a W,” he said after totaling 7 points. “We worked into the post, we knew we had some muscle over them down there and that was our game plan.”
Toyama, acutely familiar with Wong’s abilities, the pair having played together for the past 14 years in AAU and JA leagues, said the other goal was to contain the Keppel shooter as best they could.
“You can’t really stop him,” he said. “He’s a good ball handler, he’s quick, he can pull up, basically, he’s a tough guy to guard, so I have to give it to my teammates, they did a great job on him.”
As far as matching up against such a close pal—in such a big game— Toyama said he was thrilled to see Wong play well, but also glad he didn’t have too good a night.
“He’s one of my best friends. To see him on the other side, on this kind of stage, it was fun.
Ocean View Advances to Div. III-AA Final
The Ocean View Seahawks are headed to the CIF Southern Section Div. III-AA Final this Saturday, after their 70-51 dismantling of Palm Springs in the semis. Tip-off is this Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.
Avery Johnson led all scorers with 24 points and Anthony Brown added 21 for Ocean View. Senior forward Andrew Shigemasa did not score in the win.