PASADENA — The Hoover High girls’ basketball team went into the gym at Muir High for a Pacific League matchup and had the chance to accomplish some rare feats against a Mustangs program that is struggling this season and has just seven players on its roster.
Hoover seized the opportunity Wednesday afternoon, building a slim lead after halftime and toughing it out down the stretch to come away with a 40-37 victory. It was the Tornadoes’ first win on the road in Pacific play since February of 2008.
“People underestimate us. We’ve been dealing with it for years,” Hoover junior Melissa Manouki, who led her team with 11 points, said.
Hoover (4-5, 2-2 in league) held a four-point lead in the fourth quarter on the strength of a three-point basket by Manouki from near the left baseline. However, the host Mustangs knotted the score at 32 with 3:50 to go. Five seconds later, Preny Sarkissian got fouled on the fast break and then hit one of her two free throws to go back up and the Tornadoes would not trail again.
“It’s a big win,” Hoover Coach Stan Watson said. “Certainly the first against Muir in my four years.”
Feeling like the game was slipping away, Muir (4-10, 0-3) ratcheted up its defense and physical play, but the Tornadoes kept their composure and hit just enough of their free throws to keep the Mustangs at bay. Luna Panosian drained two from the charity stripe with 1:06 left to push the advantage to five. Muir scored the next three points, but Nanor Sevajian hit one of her two free throws with eight seconds left and Muir failed to get a quality look at a three-pointer as the final horn sounded.
“We started well and then got a little bit gassed in the middle and that is what allowed Hoover to win,” Muir Coach Kennon Rude said.
The win over the Mustangs, who were led by Tierra Adams’ 19 points, was also the first win of any kind in a Pacific League game against an opponent other than a visiting Pasadena squad since Jan. 16, 2009. Earlier this season, the Tornadoes defeated the visiting Bulldogs, 43-30, and it was their win hosting Pasadena last year that broke a 58-game league losing streak.
“We can’t let one win give us a big head,” said Hoover senior Naira Serajian, who was second in scoring for the Tornadoes with 10 points.
The teams were tied at 10 after one quarter and at 19 two quarters in after Hoover had trailed early.
“I told the girls this was a winnable game, if we cut down on the turnovers,” Watson said of his message to his team during a first-half stoppage.
Hoover took the lead in the opening moments of the third quarter on an offensive rebound and putback by Serajian. Just over midway through the third, Muir took the advantage back, but 22 seconds later Manouki drove the lane and scored to grab it back.
In the quarter’s final minute, a bucket by Jalia Ross, one of three Mustangs to score six points, gave her team a one-point lead, but it was short-lived when Manouki got an offensive rebound and scored the next time down the floor. Those would be the final points of the third quarter, after which Hoover had a 29-28 advantage.
The Tornadoes will look to make it two Pacific league wins in a row on the road when they travel to Burbank for a game on Friday. Those Bulldogs defeated visiting Muir, 60-39, on Monday.