After the CIF Southern Section office underwent major division realignment changes prior to the start of the season, the Crescenta Valley High girls' basketball team wasn't afforded the luxury of defending its Division I-A title.
Crescenta Valley moved up to Division I-AA and got its first taste of competing at that level in a first-round playoff home game against St. Anthony on Thursday.
Unfortunately for Crescenta Valley, its postseason run was cut short following a 64-38 defeat to talented St. Anthony.
Crescenta Valley (18-8) had difficulty trying to break through the impressive defensive effort displayed by St. Anthony (15-13).
"That's what happens when you win CIF and you lose a couple of key players to graduation," said Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez, whose team won the Pacific League championship for the first time since 2004. "We're small and young and St. Anthony is tall and experienced.
"We won league and we gave it our all. We'll have a lot of players back next year and we'll keep working at it to get better."
After a close first quarter, which saw St. Anthony hold a 15-8 lead, Crescenta Valley began to struggle at both ends of the court in the second quarter. It paved the way for the Saints, who took second in the Del Rey League, as they stormed out to a 38-19 halftime advantage.
"A lot of things happened and we couldn't really get anything going," said Perez, who took over the program in 2006. "I wish we could have played better. It's all about learning."
Crescenta Valley was led by nine points from Rachel Dayag and got eight points each from Denise Dayag and Polin Megerdichian, five from Mary Baun and four from Sarah Perez.
St. Anthony, which will play a second-round game at Mark Keppel on Saturday, received 15 points and 14 rebounds from Semaj Smith and 14 points from Drew Sharp. Smith finished with seven offensive rebounds.
The Saints also got eight points and three steals from Lauryn Morris to win their fifth game in a row.
Crescenta Valley pulled to within 49-23 on a three-pointer from Rachel Dayag with 2:40 left in the third quarter. She had all seven points in the third quarter for the Falcons, who entered Thursday having won six of their last seven games.
"We had a feeling that when we won CIF we'd be moved up," Dayag said. "It's an interesting experience to move up and you see new teams and the pace of the game is kind of faster.