Glendale Homenetmen Ararat women’s basketball claims gold at Pan-Armenian Games

Aileen Babadjanians waited 12 years to hoist the championship trophy at the Pan-Armenian Games.

On her fourth trip to Armenia with the Glendale women’s basketball team that represented the Homenetmen Ararat chapter in the Pan-Armenian Games, Babadjanians was able to get revenge against Glendale’s nemesis and bring home a gold medal for the first time.

Glendale, which finished second in the tournament its past two trips, defeated Tehran, 76-57, on Saturday in the championship game at the Mika Sports Complex in Yerevan, Armenia. Tehran defeated Babadjanians and her teammates for the gold medal in 2011.

“This was a long time coming,” said Babadjanians, who attended Clark High and played at Hoover before graduating in 2007. “It’s 12 years in the making. This is a huge accomplishment.”

Babadjanians, a guard, credited Glendale’s veteran leadership — which included Burbank High graduate Christine Kepenekian — and strong newcomers, such as Glendale Community College product Sylvia Vartazarian, as strengths of her team. Kepenekian, who extended her trip in Armenia for a few more weeks after the tournament, and Vartazarian proved to be Glendale’s top scorers.

“We were stacked,” said Babadjanians, who enjoyed the title with her children, Evan, 5, and Emily, 3, and her husband Fred, a former girls’ basketball coach at Glendale High, in Armenia.

Another newcomer to the team included 2015 Hoover High graduate and Hope International University guard Luna Panosian, one of Glendale’s top defensive players. She handled the task of guarding Tehran’s top players.

“I took on the responsibility because I knew I could handle it,” Panosian said. “Everyone wanted the gold. We all had the same goals. We knew we had the best team.

“It’s unreal. When I think about it I get goosebumps. We made history.”