GLENDALE — Competing in a pair of close early round playoff games might have been the best thing to happen to the members of the Crescenta Valley High girls’ basketball team.
The sixth-seeded Falcons picked up a pair of tight victories against Valencia and Martin Luther King to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2001.
“Both Valencia and Martin Luther King were big, fast and athletic,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez, whose team will host third-seeded Ayala in a CIF Southern Section Division I-A quarterfinal contest at 7 p.m. today. “For a sixth seed, we got a couple of good tests against those teams.
“Now, we get another one.”
Crescenta Valley (24-5), which finished second in the Pacific League behind Muir, posted a 60-52 second-round road win against 11th-seeded Martin Luther King on Saturday. Senior guard Cassie Pappas contributed a game-high 30 points for the Falcons, who will face Ayala (21-6) for the first time this season.
Pappas, a reigning All-Area and All-CIF member, said the Bulldogs will be a formidable opponent.
“They have some good players who I played club with a couple of years ago,” said Pappas, who has scored 724 points this season and 1,907 in her career. “We are going to have to come out focused.
“We didn’t take [Martin Luther King] lightly, so we can’t take Ayala lightly either. It’s going to be huge playing at home. Nobody wants to go on the road and play on a court that we’ve never played on before.”
Ayala, which captured the Sierra League championship, opened the postseason with victories against unseeded Anaheim and unseeded Capistrano Valley. The Bulldogs, who have won 15 games in a row, are led by senior guard Ariel Marsh and senior forward Rhema Gardner.
Marsh is averaging 14.7 points per game and Gardner is averaging 8.4, despite missing some time with an injury.
“They have a good post player in Gardner and a good shooter in Marsh,” said Perez, whose team has won five straight games and is 12-0 at home this season. “Our post players are going to have to be ready to step up and box out.”
The winner of the Crescenta Valley-Ayala game will face second-seeded Santa Monica or eighth-seeded Rancho Cucamonga in a semifinal contest Saturday.
Today’s other quarterfinal games will feature top-seeded Canyon Springs against ninth-seeded Chino Hills and fourth-seeded Summit against fifth-seeded Mira Costa.