GLENDALE — A win in a tightly contested conference game against the defending champions meant a tighter grip on first place.
Western State East Division Conference leader Glendale Community College hosted Los Angeles Valley College on Saturday and it was the expected defensive display both teams looked forward to.
The Vaqueros trailed by two with 8:29 left in the fourth quarter, but the hosts were able to find a scoring groove at the right time.
Powered by freshmen duo Penelopi Trieu and Tess Oakley-Stilson, Glendale college set up an 8-0 run midway in the final quarter and the Vaqueros were able to hold on to defeat L.A. Valley, 45-37, to maintain their unbeaten conference record.
“They just made really sensible basketball plays,” Glendale coach Joel Weiss said. “They didn’t overthink things and we were able to get those things in transition as they were flowing into offense. They gambled and they got into mid-range shots rather than overthink anything. They just saw the rim, elevated and shot it.
“That’s poised basketball and it’s intelligent basketball. Both of those kids, for freshmen, they’re playing, in a maturity standpoint, well above freshmen. They’re playing more like sophomores. They’re very good players.”
Oakley-Stilson, a La Cañada High graduate, drove in baseline to score the go-ahead basket, 35-33, with 5:33 left off an assist from Trieu.
“It was just commitment to what coach was telling us,” Oakley-Stilson said. “He’d give us the play, we’d [execute] it, stuck with it, kept the energy up and not let the pressure get to our heads.
Trieu, who either assisted or scored for the Vaqueros on the late run, stole the ball on the Monarchs’ next possession and pulled up from mid-range to extend the Glendale lead to 37-33.
“Those aren’t shots I would normally take,” Trieu said. “I haven’t taken those shots since I played high school, but I know my teammates. Those are the shots that they regularly took, so I knew they were confident and I was confident in them.”
The freshman from Temple City then found forward Sylvia Vartazarian, who battled three Monarchs in the paint and capped the 8-0 run at 4:07 for a 39-33 lead.
Vartazarian, a Glendale High grad, started the run after she tied the game at 33 at 7:09 in the fourth.
Oakley-Stilson finished with 13 points, Trieu provided 10 points and Vartazarian scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Sophomore forward Marlene Salazar pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Vaqueros (17-4, 5-0 in conference) got off to a rocky start and trailed the Monarchs (6-15, 1-3) 6-0 early in the first.
Glendale didn’t take a shot until 7:56 in the quarter, and Trieu knocked down the Vaqueros’ first score at 6:08 to make it a 6-2 deficit.
The Vaqueros would pull within two at 4:05, but finished the quarter down, 12-8.
“It’s funny, I was really happy,” Weiss said. “It was a slow start, but I was happy with the quality of looks we were getting. So it wasn’t as though we weren’t getting makeable shots, we just had a little bit of extra energy, kind of putting too much on the ball.
“Once we got the first one to go, we kind of settled in. But regardless, that was a defensive game and that’s what we had focused on going into this — being good defensively.”
The Vaqueros’ offense finally clicked in the second quarter and the hosts took a 15-12 advantage at the 5:13 mark to cap an 8-0 run that started late in the first quarter.
The Monarchs tied it at 15 with 3:34 left, before a three-pointer from Trieu and a pair of free throws from Oakley-Stilson closed the half with a 20-15 Glendale lead.
Oakley-Stilson responded to the Monarchs’ early third-quarter basket with a layup at 9:16 in the period. But the Vaqueros would struggle from the field for the majority of the frame.
The Vaqueros wouldn’t score another basket from the field until 3:21 in the third, again from Oakley-Stilson, and the Monarchs came back to tie it at 29 at the end of the third.