Hoover finding its way with Watson

SOUTH PASADENA — Shortly after his second summer league game with the Hoover High girls' basketball team, new Coach Stan Watson was hustling to his third.

With four of his players riding along with him, Watson and his squad left behind a 32-26 victory over Westridge at the South Pasadena Summer League.

"I'm still in the process of learning names, developing our defensive strategy and learning our offensive sets," said Watson, who replaced Martik Ghookasian as the Tornadoes coach last week, taking over a program that will look to make the postseason for the first time since 2007. "We're trying to build it from scratch."

On Monday against Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Watson's Tornadoes lost their first summer league contest, but rebounded on Wednesday, jumping out to a quick start in both the first and second halves against Westridge before staving off rallies and then hustling off to Burbank High for another game. While things are certainly going at a fast and hectic pace, Watson has started to get to know more about his players and his team.

"We've got some talent," said Watson, whose daughters Christina, who is an assistant at Westridge, and Deanna were each standouts for Flintridge Prep's basketball team and in attendance for Wednesday's game. "I think we played better than we did against Flintridge Sacred Heart. I think we defended well."

The talent that Watson alluded to was spearheaded by Amatia Goldabaghi, who scored a game-high 13 points, with 11 coming in the first half.

Goldabaghi scored six points, while Allison Zalin converted four of her six points during a run that saw Hoover begin the game with a 10-0 advantage.

The early lead came via an energetic man defense that caused myriad Westridge turnovers.

Westridge didn't score its first points until the 14:26 mark of the 20-minute half, but the bucket began a five-point spurt and eventually the Tigers closed to within 12-7 before Hoover scored the final four points of the half, highlighted by a Kariz Alberto drive in which she blew past three defenders for a layup, to take a 19-8 lead into the intermission.

Six consecutive Hoover points began the second half, with the Tornadoes swirling to a 25-8 lead.

Westridge climbed back, though, cutting it to 28-23.

A Watson timeout followed and a Sarah Begarian runner put the lead to 30-23 and the Tornadoes were able to close out the game.

Clearly, it's summer league and the final score isn't all that important, but for Watson, the summer session itself is of the utmost importance.

"It's very important," said Watson, who was previously an assistant for the Glendale Community College women's basketball team. "Obviously, just learning not only names, but tendency and personnel.

"I want to make sure my offense will make room for their gifts and talents."

On defense is where the Tornadoes were strongest, though, at least on Wednesday. It's an aspect that's the foundation for the team Watson's beginning to build.

"I think defense sets the tone," he said. "It enables girls to still play their game when their shot isn't there."

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