BURBANK — One quarter into Tuesday's consolation game of the Burroughs Tournament, the Hoover High girls' basketball team had possibly never looked further from picking up its first win of the season.
But regardless of the absence of three key players and the 16-point hole the Tornadoes fell into early, they would finish with their highest scoring output of the year so far and a 55-52 win over Venice keyed by 26 points from junior point guard Kariz Alberto.
"I think it was just our intensity," Alberto said of what helped the Tornadoes recover from a slow start and improve to 1-4 on the season. "We were able to work together and we were playing defense, so I think that was what made us get back into the game."
Defense helped Hoover, which had trailed, 24-8, after the first quarter, claw back from a 33-26 halftime deficit, as the Gondoliers didn't score until there were just 50 seconds remaining in the third period.
Alberto gave the Tornadoes their first lead of the game, 35-33, at the 2:00 mark of the third with a layup finish on a fast break and even though the Gondoliers snatched the lead right back on a three-pointer, Hoover still went into the fourth quarter with a slim 38-36 advantage.
Jessica Mkrtchyan (eight points) and Alison Zalin both scored inside the first minute and a half of the final period for Hoover to build a 43-37 lead before Venice got back within one point at the 5:23 mark.
A 6-1 Hoover run followed and Hoover never led by fewer than four the rest of the way until a Venice three-pointer at the buzzer accounted for the final score.
"[The Gondoliers] were very aggressive defensively, but they weren't really moving their feet, so we ran our spread offense and tried to have everyone just get to the basket," said first-year Hoover Coach Stan Watson, who was without co-captain shooting guard Amatia Golbodaghi, forward Lia Abnusi and guard Colette Yousefian for various reasons. "We fought back, we didn't give up and we decided to make good decisions with the basketball. We reduced our turnovers and we finally started making some shots."
Hoover trailed by as many as 17 early in the second quarter, but got its comeback started at the free-throw line. Venice (1-8) gave Hoover 14 opportunities at the stripe during the period and the Tornadoes knocked down eight of them.
Another five charity shots, three of which were converted, early in the third helped Hoover nearly close the gap completely, as the Gondoliers' offense floundered.
"It worked really well because, for a while, we were able to just drive in and they were fouling us," said Alberto, whose effort was bolstered by seven points from Sharis Rostamian. "We were making free throws and that helped us get a lead."