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Turning on the AC: Veteran coaching at Glendale, Burroughs helps youthful teams blossom

Turning on the AC: Veteran coaching at Glendale, Burroughs helps youthful teams blossom
A season after leading his team to the semifinals, Glendale High girls' basketball coach Tadeh Mardirosian guided the Nitros to their first Pacific League title since 1992. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

There are fewer single days that are more fun in the high school sports calendar than what took place Thursday as the Pacific League concluded its winter sports regular season.

While there were storylines galore, the one that stood out most was the value of good coaching.

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Several area coaches pulled off some amazing feats, but maybe none as least expected than Glendale High's Tadeh Mardirosian.

The Nitros enjoyed a historic 2016-17 season in which they advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division II-A semifinals for the first time in program history.

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Glendale graduated five seniors off a nine-player squad, including All-Area first-teamer Sylvia Vartazarian.

So, with only two returners back with moderate experience, the expectations weren't high.

"If you would have asked me in June if I would have had a team competing for league, I would have said you're crazy," Mardirosian said. "I would have expected to compete for a top-four spot, but not for league. We were more focused on improvement than anything."

And that's what Mardirosian's girls did, grow.

The Nitros edged Burroughs, 30-29, then Pasadena, 49-45, and later Arcadia, 47-44, between Jan. 10-16.

On Jan. 29, Glendale lost to Crescenta Valley, 51-50, and then dropped the rematch to Burroughs, 40-29, and appeared to be on the outside looking in.

On Thursday evening, a team still improving won its third straight contest, 53-15, over Hoover to finish second in league, or at least that's what Mardirosian thought would happen beforehand.

Except, that wasn't the case.

League-leading Crescenta Valley was upset by rival Arcadia, 57-47, to force a three-way tie for the league championship with Burroughs.

The result secured the Nitros a share of their first league title since 1992, a feat Mardirosian's magical squad from last season didn't accomplish.

"It was a really cool experience because we found out in the third quarter of our Hoover game that CV had lost and that we were going to share a piece of the pie," Mardirosian said. "The girls have come such a long way from where we started last summer. I couldn't be prouder."

Another beneficiary of the Falcons' slip-up Thursday was Burroughs.

Like Glendale, the Indians were inexperienced with only two seniors and took their lumps with losses to Pasadena (55-33) in the Burroughs Tournament on Dec. 9, while dropping league games to Glendale (30-29), Pasadena (39-28) again and Crescenta Valley (54-52 in overtime) from Jan. 10 to the 16.

The Indians hadn't lost three straight league contests in six seasons. Such a string of defeats should have been disastrous for Burroughs coach Vicky Oganyan.

Yet, the setbacks served as a lesson for a team with three of its top four scorers being freshmen.

Burroughs responded with an eight-game winning streak that included wins over Glendale (40-29), Crescenta Valley (50-36) and Pasadena (41-40) in a three-game stretch from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6.

Burroughs' win over Crescenta Valley may have been the most remarkable during the run as the Indians rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit with an incredible 25-1 run.

The Indians finished the season with a 54-41 triumph over Burbank on Thursday to split a league title.

"Doing it with some young players – I think our freshmen scored 36 of the 50 points – is just exciting and I'm super proud," Oganyan said after the Crescenta Valley game. "Any time we can stay in it and keep battling, it gives them a great lesson that it's never over. You have to keep battling."

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