LA CRESCENTA — The Crescenta Valley High girls’ basketball team had already made it one step further in the playoffs than it did last season by reaching the second round.
The Falcons were at home Saturday for their Division II-AA game against Huntington Beach with a quarterfinal berth on the line.
Crescenta Valley fought its way back from a tough beginning and had an opportunity to take a shot that could keep its season alive, but it was not to be.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, they came up just short, as the visiting Oilers escaped with a 35-34 win.
“We had a shot at the end, we had a wide-open look, but it was just a little bit short,” Crescenta Valley coach Jason Perez said. “I thought it was in when she released it.”
With 1.3 seconds left in the contest, Crescenta Valley (18-11) trailed by one and the Falcons had the ball out of bounds. Falcons senior Georgina Kregorian came around the right side of the lane, took a pass and let go a mid-range jumper. However, as the clock hit zeros, Kregorian’s shot hit off the rim and the Falcons’ season came to an end by the slimmest of margins.
Just to get to that point to win the game was an accomplishment for the hosts, who trailed by six with 2:29 to go following two made free throws by Huntington Beach (23-6).
The next time down the floor, Falcons senior Mari Lee dropped in a three-pointer. Caity Bouchard then stole the ball back, but missed a shot at the other end. Alin Mazmanian stepped up and blocked the next Oilers shot, but the Falcons missed again.
Huntington Beach’s Meghan McIntyre then missed two free throws with 34 seconds left. After the misses, Crescenta Valley’s Denise Dayag drove the length of the floor for a lay-in to pull within 35-34.
Lee then came up big again, stealing the ball to give the Falcons a chance.
“As a senior I knew I had to step it up,” Lee said. “That steal is unexpected. You just have to figure it out. This moment is all or nothing. I just had to go for it.”
Perez called timeout with six seconds to go, down by one. Up to that point, the Oilers had been called for just one foul in the second half and took advantage.
On the inbounds play, the Oilers committed a foul on the floor. The Falcons inbounded again with 3.9 left, but the Oilers fouled again with 1.3 to go. After one more foul that ran off no time, the next inbounds pass found Kregorian, who had a good look, but the ball did not go down.
Throughout the game, it was Kregorian who had done the heavy lifting on offense against a stingy Oilers defense. She had a game-high 16 points.
Kregorian had her team’s lone points of the opening quarter, six of nine in the second and eight of 13 in the third before going out with foul trouble with 1:41 to go.
“People have to step up and as a captain that was my job,” Kregorian said. “I had to step up for my team and that was all that was important to me.”
Kregorian hit three thee-pointers, a feat matched by Lee, who finished with 11 points.
“[The Oilers] really focused on stopping Bouchard, but Georgina and Mari came up big,” Perez said.
The other two Falcons to score were Dayag with five points and Mazmanian with two.
The first quarter was a rough one for the Falcons, ranked No. 11 in the final division poll and managed just two points. Huntington Beach scored the first 11 points of the game before Kregorian made a tough jumper to break to run. The Oilers were up, 13-2, after the first quarter.
“The first quarter was uncharacteristic of how we normally play,” Perez said. “Our defense kept us in the game; Our defense is always what keeps us in them.”
Crescenta Valley fared better in each of the next three quarters in a defensive battle throughout. The Falcons outscored the Oilers in the last three quarters.