GLENDALE — Hoover High’s Derrick Eliasi had a hard time finding his offensive rhythm in the first half of the nonleague boys’ basketball game against visiting Artesia on Friday.
The junior guard missed his first three shots in the first quarter, and as his teammates were draining three-point shots in a second-quarter scoring frenzy, Eliasi contributed just one outside shot as the Tornadoes entered halftime down by two points.
Eliasi came out fired up in the third quarter, however, and scored 15 points in the frame to fuel Hoover to a 72-65 victory in the Tornadoes’ final nonleague game before opening league play.
“Going into halftime, I was telling myself I wasn’t going to let my team lose, that I have to keep my composure and do well,” said Eliasi, who finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds and two steals. “When the third quarter started, even though I was doing much of the scoring, my whole team was contributing. I was just hitting my shots and we took the win.”
Hoover begins its Pacific League campaign against Crescenta Valley on Tuesday, and Tornadoes coach Jack Van Patten said Friday’s win gave his team confidence heading into league.
“We didn’t take a step backward, so that’s good,” Van Patten said. “We competed against a team that I thought was physically pretty good. That’s good for the kids because that means we can play against anybody.”
Though Eliasi’s big third quarter output gave Hoover its first advantage since late in the first quarter, the Tornadoes led by just six against Artesia at the end of the frame.
The teams battled in the final quarter before Hoover established a five-point lead, 68-63, with 2:10 to go before the Pioneers cut the lead to three.
With a 68-65 lead and 58 seconds left in the game, Hoover forward Eddie Torossian missed a free throw, but teammate Karo Darmandzhyan grabbed the crucial offensive rebound to force the Pioneers to put Eliasi on the line.
“We really wanted to win the game, so we just did our best,” Darmandzhyan said. “Coach was telling us we had to fight hard so we gave everything we did to get that rebound. We were worried that if we were to miss [the free throw] we’d have to get back on defense.”
Darmandzhyan added 12 points and six rebounds, while Torossian tallied 13 points and seven rebounds. Hoover had four players in double figures in scoring, as Shant Kiledjian contributed 12 points.
The Pioneers ended the first quarter on a 10-2 run to close the frame with a 19-11 lead.
Artesia started to pull away at the start of the second quarter and had a 27-14 lead with five minutes left in the half.
Then, a Torossian three-point shot at the 4:34 mark in the second quarter started a three-point scoring spurt for Hoover. The Tornadoes knocked down four consecutive threes to pull to within two, 33-31, at halftime and finished six of seven from beyond the arc.
“From three, it’s just a law of averages,” Van Patten said. “If you miss a bunch and you’re a good shooting team, you’re going to make a bunch later on, too. I’m not worried about the threes – we expect to make those.”
Eliasi got things going at the start of the third quarter, as he knocked down a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 35-34.
He tallied another three-pointer a minute later to give the Tornadoes a 39-37 lead.
“I thought we slowed them down a little and took away the middle in the second half,” Van Patten said. “The first half they kind of gashed us [in the paint], and I thought we did a good job of rebounding. I thought we had a good effort.
“There’s a point where we got down and we could’ve folded, but we didn’t, and that’s credit to the kids.”