LA CRESCENTA — Odds are the Crescenta Valley High girls' basketball team will not pick up as easy a win as it did Wednesday night in its season-opening game too many other times this season.
That's of no concern to Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez, who's looking for marked improvement leading up to the start of Pacific League action in January.
"We have nine first-year varsity players, so we are a young team," Perez said after Crescenta Valley cruised to a 65-16 home victory against Verdugo Hills in a pool-play contest of the Falcon Tip-Off. "It's a young team that needs to continue getting experience and being able to play together."
Crescenta Valley never trailed and forced Verdugo Hills (0-2) to commit 21 turnovers. The Falcons, who qualified for the playoffs last season, scored the game's first 16 points and registered nine steals in the opening quarter.
Crescenta Valley had a brief scare late in the second quarter. Falcons starting sophomore forward Ella Stepanian drove to the basket before being intentionally fouled by Verdugo Hills' Valerie Tran. Stepanian, who earned all-league first-team honors last season, limped off the court after making her two free throws that gave the Falcons a 35-5 lead with 3:13 remaining in the first half.
Stepanian, who finished with a game-high 18 points, applied an ice bag to her knee and didn't play the remainder of the first half. Stepanian returned and played almost the entire third quarter.
"I felt a little pain and I was stiff," Stepanian said. "After halftime I was feeling a lot better."
The Falcons received 11 points, eight steals and four assists from senior point guard Catherine Davis. Davis recorded a steal and scored on a layup to give the Falcons a 12-0 lead with 3:23 left in the first quarter.
The Dons finally scored when Mary Karapetyan made the first of two free throws to make it 16-1 with 2:27 remaining in the opening frame.
"We started off well and were able to get it rolling," said Perez, whose team will face Simi Valley in another pool-play contest at 7:45 p.m. today. "We continued to get better."
Crescenta Valley received 13 points from senior forward Samira Seraji and 11 from senior forward Lexi Mirzaian.
"We were able to get off to a great start," said Stepanian, who had 14 first-half points. "We were able to get some steals and convert them into baskets.
"For us, it's about being able to finish."
The tournament will feature three additional pool-play games today. La Cañada will meet Thousand Oaks at 3:15 p.m., followed by West Ranch against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame at 4:45 and Whittier against Louisville at 6:15.
The tournament will conclude Saturday with the championship game scheduled for 7:30 p.m.