Searching for a new group of stars

GLENDALE — For those looking to be the area's next top-caliber girls' basketball players, step right up.

Part of the landscape will be noticeably different this season following the departures of Cassie Pappas and Megan Musashi to college. For most of the past four seasons, Pappas and Musashi scored their share of points and helped their teams at Crescenta Valley High and Flintridge Prep, respectively, win plenty of games.

The timetable of high school sports isn't very long, meaning there's plenty at stake in finding potential standouts who might have the ability to carry the torch.

"That's life in high school sports," Flintridge Prep Coach Todd Frost said. "You get those special players like Megan and you have them and watch them grow.

"Then they are gone. But, it's a thing where it's happened before and you just hope that you have that next special player who can keep the program going."

Pappas, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, averaged 25.2 points per game and ranked eighth in the state in scoring average last season. She had the ability to carry the Falcons for long stretches, making Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez's job a bit easier.

"She could do a lot of things that were amazing," Perez said. "She could score, rebound and defend so well and it's going to be hard to replace her."

There might be some players in the current cast who are ready to stand up and lead their squads to a league championship or a spot in the playoffs.

Crescenta Valley, Flintridge Prep, Glendale, Hoover, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Holy Family and Glendale Adventist Academy are eager to find out.

At Crescenta Valley, the Falcons return one starter from a squad that won 24 games last season and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2001. That will be senior guard Melanie Minas, who averaged seven points per game last season and helped the Falcons place second in the Pacific League behind Muir.

Perez will look to find suitable replacements to those he lost to graduation. There are some candidates, including junior guard Catherine Davis, senior forward Sarah Yoon and freshman forward Ella Stepanian.

"The group that we had last year was phenomenal, but it's a brand new team now," Perez said. "You lose a group like that that's won 62 games the past three seasons and you are kind of starting again from scratch.

"Yes, we are starting over, but it's not like we don't have anything. The goal will always be the same in that we want to win league and we want to be hitting our stride when league starts [in January]. Between now and then, we will see what we can do."

Flintridge Prep took second in the Prep League and advanced to the quarterfinals last season. However, like the Falcons, they might have some issues with inexperience.

Frost will have two players in the fold who have varsity experience.

"We have 11 players and seven of them are freshmen or sophomores," Frost said. "I don't like to use the word rebuild, but it might take us a year or two before we can be right back near or at the top of league.

"This year, we will learn what we are about. I look at it as an opportunity to start another tradition. We still have the talent. We just lost a lot of experience."

Those returning to the Rebels are senior guards Kristin Shum and Shelly Kim. They will be joined by sophomore forwards Kinsey Thompson and Gabby Zen.

Sacred Heart, Holy Family and Glendale Adventist also qualified for the playoffs last season. Glendale and Hoover didn't appear in the postseason.

Under Coach Gino Pacella, the Tologs finished sixth in the ultra-competitive Mission League. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second season in a row.

Unlike Crescenta Valley and Flintridge Prep, the Tologs return the core of their starting lineup. There's an opportunity for the Tologs to climb in the league standings with junior forward Ivy Fitzgerald, senior guards Vanessa Romero and Stephanie Ramsden, senior forward Olivia Warner and sophomore guard Dana Budzyn, who earned all-league second-team honors last season, all returning.

"This is a group that's been together for two years now," Pacella said. "The Mission League is tough with there having been three CIF championship teams and one state championship team.

"The goals will be to get a lot of tough games in December and then be able to make some noise in league. I have no problem using all 12 players in a game and maybe we can have at least six of them averaging about nine or 10 points per game."

Holy Family lost a couple of starters to graduation in All-Horizon League first-team members Shabby Talab and Jennifer Fisher, but it will return senior guard Gayle Lachica and junior guard Gaby Diaz.

Lachica and Diaz averaged 5.6 and 4.6 points per game, respectively, last season to help the Gaels advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Both earned spots on the all-league second team.

"We are looking to be in contention for the league title and shoot for the playoffs," Holy Family Coach Ernest Siy said.

Things will be a bit different this season for Glendale Adventist. The Cougars will now compete in the Liberty League after years of being a member of the Westside League.

Glendale Adventist will also have a new coach in Stephen Nelson, who graduated from the school in 1999.

The Cougars will return junior forwards Chantel Robinson and Ana Isabel Jacinto and senior forward Gille Nielson, but Nelson said his squad will lack height.

"We don't have any giants on our team but they are fast and conditioned," Nelson said. "We want to have a team that's full of reactionary players.

"Having quick players is the second best thing if you don't have any height."

Glendale will look to return to the playoffs for the first time in two seasons. The Nitros won only two Pacific League games last season.

Coach Tania Adary will have nine seniors on board, the bulk of whom have played at the varsity level for at least the past two seasons.

The Nitros will bring back starting senior guards Stella Ghazarian and Serah Mirzaeian and senior forward/guard Keasha Luna.

"I'm anticipating a top-four spot in league," Adary said. "I didn't expect what happened last year to happen.

"They have been playing together for some time and they are still adjusting. They will all be on the same page. As long as they are competitive and play their hardest, I don't care about the end result."

At Hoover, the Tornadoes will begin a new era. Hoover will have a new coach in Stan Watson, who spent the previous five seasons as an assistant with the Glendale Community College women's basketball program before being hired by the Tornadoes in June.

The Tornadoes, who won only three games last season and none in the Pacific League, will look to regroup under Watson. Hoover will have several capable players, including sophomore center Allison Zalin and senior guard Pamela Carballo.

"We are expecting to be more competitive and are looking to upset a few teams in our league," Watson said. "We want to have a good season and let the players have some fun and not judge them just on wins and losses.

"Basketball is basketball. I'll be utilizing a lot of the things I taught at GCC, like being defensive minded and executing properly."

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