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Pasadena avenges rare loss to Muir

2/10/2012

PASADENA -- Brandon Jolley had some fun with the Rose City rivalry Thursday night, blowing kisses toward the opposing fans after nearly every made basket in the second half.

It didn’t matter who scored; Jolley blew kisses, each more exuberant than the last. And when it was time for seriousness, Jolley was there too.

Nine-time Pacific League champion Pasadena had been dethroned by Muir earlier in the week, and, earlier in the season, beaten by its neighboring rival for the first time in over a decade. Jolley made sure to avenge the loss and regain pride, leading Pasadena to a 71-53 road victory against Muir in the regular-season finale.

“When they beat us at our house [last month] we underestimated them, we didn’t really care about them,” said Jolley, who poured in a game-high 26 points and grabbed eight boards. “We had to take them more seriously.”

Pasadena (19-7) galloped into the Mustangs' gym, opening a 23-9 lead after the first quarter behind Jolley’s energy down low. The Bulldogs began with a sizzling 14-2 run, and the highly anticipated rematch never lived up to the hype.

“There’s a lot of talk in this town, and Jolley was one who felt there was too much talk going on,” Pasadena coach Tim Tucker said. “I think people got it confused that we’re the second team in the city. We’re not the second team in the city. We might have some blips and a little bad luck, but we’re five points away from being undefeated [in league] this year. We know how good we are. Jolley knows how good he is. We came out to prove it.”

Muir’s bumpy beginning, meanwhile, coincided with coach Gamal Smalley’s decision to honor his seniors by fielding an all-senior lineup. The group of non-starters stayed on the floor for almost two minutes.

“We were in foul trouble in the first game so we couldn’t play Pasadena defense,” Tucker said. “We got down, slapped the floor and said ‘We’re not giving them anything.’ We got out to an early lead and built on it.”

Pasadena’s Blake Hamilton had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Dion Nelson led Muir with 13 points.

A great deal of the game’s luster was lost last week when Pasadena fell to Crescenta Valley, allowing Muir (24-2) to clinch without having to beat its rival. The Mustangs did just that, defeating Crescenta Valley, 66-63, on Tuesday. Fans stormed the court to celebrate Muir’s first league crown in over a decade.

Heading into the week, Pasadena was ranked No. 2 in the most recent CIF-Southern Section Division 3AAA poll, behind top-ranked Damien and ahead of Palm Springs and Palm Desert.

“We believe we have a big run ahead of us,” Tucker said.

Muir was ranked fifth behind Gardena Serra, La Verne Lutheran, Bishop Montgomery and Los Angeles Price in Division 4AA. The division might be one of the most difficult in the section, and also includes serious contenders Crespi, Harvard-Westlake, Oaks Christian and Windward. Muir's only other regular-season loss came against Village Christian in the championship game of the La Salle/Temple City Tournament in December.

“We’re very proud of them and their whole season,” Smalley said. “This one game doesn’t define us at all. ... It doesn’t matter, we’re still Pacific League champs. We have a lot to be proud of. I’m happy for the guys.”

A postgame altercation involving Jolley and Muir’s Jelani Mitchell marred the previous meeting. Jolley suffered a cut on his hand, bloodying the walls in the locker-room hallway before Pasadena police intervened and cleared the area. Muir needed a police escort to get past a rowdy group of fans that hovered near the parking lot some 30 minutes after the final buzzer.

Jolley was better composed Thursday, kisses and all.

“I didn’t really mean to do that,” Jolley said, chuckling. “But when they were at our house, they were making fun of us. I figured I’d get them back.”

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.