Before each game, the South Pasadena girls’ basketball team chants “together,” then “family” on the count of three.
Offseason meetings on Zoom to start the year later turned to conditioning on the track and outdoor practices on humbling pavement. Soon, it was indoor practices accompanied by weekly mouth swabs to test for COVID-19, the disease that upended their usual schedule along with the world.
Despite all the changes and separation they endured, this year’s team has a sense of togetherness unlike others in recent seasons, and it’s evident in more than just the pregame chant.
“The past years, we’ve never played team ball,” said junior Allysan Tse. “Since we have really good chemistry and we have each other’s backs, the chemistry this year is just way better and the environment is really positive.”
The team cohesiveness continues to develop as the season progresses. After losing the first three games of the season, the Tigers won two in a row and scored a season-high 64 points against neighboring rival San Marino.
Tse has been a key cog in South Pasadena’s offense this season as a vocal leader and gritty playmaker, never shying from a difficult shot.
“Game-wise, we go a lot of times as she goes,” said sixth-year head coach Cody Masden. “She drives to the basket like you’ve never seen somebody do before. She’s willing to take tough shots. She really embraces the moment as well.”
Tse’s sister, Dylan, a 5-foot-6 freshman, is also fearless and poised to make a difference for the Tigers. Jamie Kim, another freshman, is a capable shooter who specializes in shots from range.
“She’s got the green light,” Masden said of Kim. “No matter what, she’s allowed to shoot whatever she wants to shoot. It’s been a good addition for us.”
There are two seniors on the team this year: Jenna Okohira and Michelle Jee. The senior class is focusing on enjoying each game and making the best of a season altered by the pandemic, although Okohira admitted that a strong finish in the Rio Hondo League wouldn’t be too bad, either.
“I’m just trying to give it my all, especially because it’s my last year and it’s different circumstances,” Okohira said. “We didn’t get the same preparation, so just trying to put my all and have fun as much as I can.”
Every player across the roster is playing with passion, something Masden has preached throughout the season so far. Thanks to the team’s chemistry and strong fundamentals, there’s no singular player that the Tigers rely on.
With a few early-season losses out of the way, South Pasadena is ready to take on league opponents and vie for some wins against another rival program, La Cañada, with its newfound team chemistry and confidence.
“We realized that, like, us as a team, we’re capable of beating whoever we wanted to,” Okohira said, “and I think we kind of internalized that more these past two games and we’re able to work together and pull that off.”
South Pasadena’s games will be live streamed on the South Pasadena athletics Instagram page, @sphs.athletics.