LA North and LA South: Division III semifinal No. 1 La Canada vs. Inglewood

CIF State Division III boys basketball playoffs

No. 1 La Canada (29-3) vs. Inglewood (26-7), Saturday, 7 p.m. at La Canada High School

The La Canada boys' basketball team has been making a habit of winning close games in the playoffs. The Spartans won the Southern Section Divison 3AA championship by three points over Price.

They won their second-round game in the CIF State Division III playoffs by one point over Crespi on Thursday night.

La Canada coach Tom Hofman said he’s finally finding a bit of a comfort zone with the way his kids have been playing.

“They looked real good in practice,” Hofman said. “We’ve had so many close games, I’m getting used to them. I have a lot of confidence in the kids.”

Inglewood is coming off a close second-round win of its own. The Sentinels beat fourth-seeded Price, 56-55, on Thursday night to advance to the semifinals of the Southern California Regional.

“I expect a good game,” Hofman said. “They’re a good shooting team. We’re going to have to work on contesting their shots.”

Here are the five keys to the game for La Canada:

1. Inglewood can shoot. Senior wingman Rhon Mitchell leads the team in scoring at 15.3 points per game and is shooting 49 percent from the field on the season. Senior Julius Bilbrew is averaging 12.2 points per game and has made 47 3-pointers. He is shooting 36 percent from 3-point range.

2. La Canada needs to remember to relax: Hofman said his team has already exceeded his expectations. Winning the Division 3AA championship was a high point. His players are not feeling any sort of pressure, even this deep in the playoffs, he said. “Whatever happens, it’s not going to be the end of the world.”

3. Everyone has a role: Hofman said one of the stats that impresses him the most is that Sean Mintie has taken about 20 charges this season. He can’t remember a team that took 20 charges in a season. His players have bought into their roles. Mintie is a pefect example of that.

4. Rebound: Matt Faber discovered a scoring touch against Crespi on Thursday night. While that was a nice surprise, Hofman said he needs Faber, the team’s top rebounder, to keep focused on the boards. “They all have a role,” Hofman said. “Matt Faber is the all-time leading rebounder. He’s starting to score. He’s averaging about 14 rebounds a game in the playoffs against some great teams. It’s his rebounding that can’t be replaced.”

5. Stay unselfish: The La Canada players have a great chemistry, Hofman said. He wants them to continue to play that way. “I’m realy happy,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch them.”