Burbank girls' basketball overcomes slow start to win tournament game

BURBANK — After Burbank High opened the girls' basketball season with a second-place finish in the San Marino Tournament two weeks ago, the Bulldogs were off to face new competition as they began pool-play in the Burroughs Magnolia Park Optimist Club Tournament against James Monroe High.

Burbank began play Tuesday in the tournament's three-team Pool B against city-section foe Monroe in the small gym at Burroughs. Things went well for the Bulldogs, who doubled their halftime advantage on the way to a 52-32 win.

"I'm a little disappointed that we started slow, but we've had 10 days off and not a lot of practice time," Burbank Coach Bruce Breeden said. "I thought in the second half we did really well. We shared the ball really well, got a lot of assists. Overall, early in the season, we've got some things to work on, but I'm pleased."

Burbank (4-1) led, 22-12, at half before putting the pedal down in the third, tallying 21 points in the quarter. In the third, the Bulldogs saw their advantage swell to 23 by repeatedly turning defense into quick offense.

"When our defense is really good, we get our steals and go faster, and faster, and faster," Bulldog Sharis Ghazeri said. "That is basically our game."

The Bulldogs led, 43-25, at the end of the quarter, with Samantha Ainian scoring seven of her nine points in the stanza. The senior also led her squad with 10 rebounds.

Burbank increased its advantage to 27 midway through the final quarter before Monroe (2-4) scored the final seven points of the contest.

The first quarter saw both teams struggle on offense, with the exception of Bulldog Yassemeen Sa'Dullah. The guard, who is new to Burbank after transferring in from Cuesta, used her dribble to create offense for herself and her teammates. The junior made half of her team's field goals in the quarter for seven points, while also assisting on two more field goals. The Vikings scored a single field goal to trail, 13-2, after one.

"I think any coach would appreciate a transfer like [Sa'Dullah]," Breeden said. "First day of school the young lady shows up and says she wants to play basketball. The second day she shows she can play ball. It's really nice. That's exciting. She's really helped the team."

Sa'Dullah finished with nine points, four rebounds and one block, while playing with energy on both sides of the floor. The Bulldogs defense was clearly not as strong without her presence, as shown by the second quarter, when Monroe outscored Burbank, 10-9, while Sa'Dullah spent most of the quarter on the bench as part of the team's regular rotation.

Burbank had eight players score, led by Ghazeri with 10 points. The senior guard also had two assists and three rebounds. Ainian and Sa'Dullah both had nine, followed by Christina Mkrtchyan and Ashley Linda with seven and six points, respectively.

"Our defense really picked it up in the second half, which was good," Sa'Dullah said.

One Bulldog who did not see the floor was Anastacia Tsybaeva, who transferred back to Burbank after spending her sophomore season at Bellermine-Jefferson. Breeden just recently found out from the CIF Office that the 6-foot-5 junior will be eligible to play in late January, which would mark one full year since she left the Guards' program.

Burbank will be back on the same court at Burroughs exactly 24 hours from the tip-off of Tuesday night's win to play Granada Hills Charter, the third team in Pool B, on Wednesday. The Vikings lost, 35-29, to Granada Hills on Monday, so Burbank's next game will determine the winner of the group going into bracket play later in the week.

"We've got to go again tomorrow," Breeden said. "We've got to get ready tonight."

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