LA CRESCENTA — Crescenta Valley girls’ basketball Coach Jason Perez hadn’t seen this Glendale team and it surely wasn’t the one his squad faced in the first meeting.
Kailyn Gideon, a junior transfer whose prior high school closed down, played in only her second game of the season for the Nitros and already has proven to be a difference maker on both ends of the court.
Still, Crescenta Valley had its own go-to player in Ella Stepanian, already established and familiar to every team in the Pacific League, and she led the Falcons with a game-high 24 points to hold off the Nitros and prevail, 51-44, Tuesday evening at home.
“We faced a better team than we thought,” said Perez, whose team has won five straight and eight of the last nine. “Glendale is going to be a factor, because nobody except us and Hoover knows of this girl [Gideon]. She kept us from scoring 14 points and she had 11 herself.”
Glendale (9-13, 3-5) was led by Gideon’s 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, and although the team never led in the contest, it hung around for the entirety of the 32-minute tilt, cutting the lead down to as little as five points on four occasions in the second half.
Turnovers, especially nine in the fourth quarter, kept the Nitros from overcoming the deficit and scoring the upset victory.
“We went cold on offense and defense and when one picked up, the other one didn’t,” Nitros Coach Tania Adary said. “We just couldn’t find a happy medium.”
The two squads opened the Pacific League season on Jan. 7, when both teams relied on defense, while offense came at a premium. Perez was pleased with the 31-22 win, given it was a road game, despite the sloppy play.
Three weeks later, the offenses were more in-sync, but a similar result gave Crescenta Valley (16-6, 7-1) the season sweep.
The Falcons never looked back after Stepanian opened the game with a three-pointer — one of three in the game for the senior and five for the team.
Crescenta Valley controlled the pace of the game throughout, but never led more than 12, as Glendale kept fighting back, particularly in the second half, highlighted by a 7-0 run in the third quarter and a 10-5 run in the fourth quarter after trailing by 12 points at 32-20 and nine points at 43-34, respectively.
Glendale’s Heidy Garcia connected on two threes on consecutive offensive possessions — the second of which cut the Falcons lead down to 48-44 with less than 40 seconds remaining in the game. The ensuing possession saw the Nitros allow Josie Brock and Samantha Lamb to get the ball out of their hands and to Stepanian’s, who promptly hit three of four free throws to seal the fate.
“Ella hugely stepped up,” said Perez, who also received eight points from Brock. “She really hasn’t been putting up big points. Lately, she’s been key in the passing and rebounding areas. Other girls chipped in as well, it was a good team effort.”
“Brock was phenomenal. We did what we needed to win the game. We did a good job facing adversity, handling the pressure and not panicking.”
Along with Gideon, Glendale’s Kristina Sahakian was also a factor inside, finishing the game with nine points and 11 rebounds. Adary, who has coached her share of shooters in past years, admitted the change to the inside game has been a process getting used to.
“We dictate our offense based on getting the ball in the post until the double team comes,” said Adary, who will face Burroughs on Friday at home. “Now we have two: I might need to sub one out for defensive purposes. It depends who we’re playing.”
Crescenta Valley will travel to Muir to take on the Mustangs before hosting the Indians Monday.