GLENDALE — Offense came at a premium in the Pacific League opener between the Crescenta Valley High and Glendale girls’ basketball squads.
By the same token, both teams relied on high-energy defense to gain an advantage over the other.
Ultimately, the Falcons were the ones to create separation and prevailed over the host Nitros, 31-22, Tuesday.
“We focus on defense,” said Crescenta Valley’s co-captain and senior guard Ella Stepanian, who led the Falcons with 10 points. “Our offense comes from our defense. We use our press and our traps to create turnovers and get out on fast breaks.”
Stepanian and the Falcons struggled from the field, making just nine of 47 attempts, but were able to create contact and hit 12 of 20 free throws.
It was the Falcons (10-5, 1-0 in league) defense that secured the victory, forcing 29 Glendale turnovers and holding the Nitros to nine field goals of their own.
Glendale’s Kristina Sahakian led the team with 10 points, but the team field goals were few and far between, as the Nitros had trouble overcoming the Falcons’ full-court press and getting into an offensive set.
“We need to be more patient, and make smarter decisions,” said Nitros Coach Tania Adary, whose team fell to 6-9 overall and 0-1 in the Pacific League. “We had trouble beating the press and initiating something after that. Our offense was frozen.”
Glendale gave up the game’s opening basket to Stepanian, but didn’t trail thereafter in the first half, although neither team found any momentum and went into halftime tied at 11.
Crescenta Valley came out of the break as the aggressor, holding the Nitros to one field goal in the third quarter at the 3:22 mark after scoring seven unanswered points to start the frame. Glendale’s Gabby Yanai answered Tanisha Minassian’s three-pointer with one of her own to cut the Falcons lead down to 18-14.
Crescenta Valley never trailed in the second half and didn’t let up, scoring nine of the game’s next 11 points after the Yanai long ball to take the game’s first double-digit lead at 27-16, as it kept up the intensity and maintained the pressure on defense to cruise to the road win.
“Our defense was extremely good,” Falcons Coach Jason Perez said. “Our defense isn’t the problem. Sometimes, it’s our offense, but it’s not easy playing offense when it’s hack-and-smack and grab defense.
“A lot of fouls, physical game, there should have been twice the number of fouls called.”
“The foul count was enough,” said Adary, whose team had six free throws to 20 for Crescenta Valley. “We saw who got the calls.”
The Falcons took control of the game on both ends in the third quarter en route to notching the win and starting the league campaign on the right note.
“We really wanted to send a message like, ‘We’re here,’” Stepanian said. “We feel there is no stopping us. We want the league title and we’ve worked hard for it.”
“We’re 1-0 in league,” said Perez who received seven points from Minassian. “It’s nice to go to Glendale and get a win, despite some sloppy play. Our defense was good, players stepped up and we played through not playing well.”
The Falcons will travel to Muir to take on the Mustangs on Friday, while the Nitros go to Burbank to take on a Burroughs team Adary called the team to beat in the Pacific League.
The Falcons and the Nitros will meet again at Crescenta Valley on Jan. 28.