SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — In a hectic Pacific League opener that culminated in a frantic fourth quarter, the Crescenta Valley High girls' basketball team found peace at the free-throw line.
Moments after host Glendale had rallied to take its first lead of the fourth quarter, the Falcons seized the lead right back on a pair of free throws by Catherine Davis. Then, still clinging to a one-point lead after a Nitros turnover on the ensuing possession, Samira Seraji drilled another pair after being intentionally fouled to give Crescenta Valley its final margin of victory, 38-35.
"I've actually been really bad at my free-throw percentage lately, but we've been practicing," said Seraji, who made three of four attempts from the line and finished tied with teammate Ella Stepanian for a game-high 13 points. "It's our first game of the league and Glendale's a big game for me."
The game was scrappy at the very least and neither team could rise above the sloppy tempo of the fourth quarter in which each turned the ball over four times down the stretch.
Seraji spun and converted a shot in the post to give Crescenta Valley (9-4) a 32-27 lead with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter, but neither team scored again for a span of nearly three and a half minutes, exchanging turnovers instead of baskets.
"We never play well here and they're a tough, kind of a scrappy-like team," Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez said. "If you play sloppy basketball, you're going to find yourself in that kind of game. Usually when we lose to Glendale it's because we don't put them away when we have the opportunity."
Glendale (5-7) finally broke the spell with a driving shot by Kris Zadourian (10 points) to cut the lead to 32-29 with 2:06 to go, but Seraji came through down low again to keep it a five-point game with 1:40 left.
"They're a fast team and we were trying to get the ball inside mostly and just drive," Seraji said. "We knew we had a height advantage with me and Ella."
The Nitros then pulled to within two on a step-back three by Zadourian, got a stop at the other end and tied the game when a missed three-point attempt was rebounded by Glendale's Michelle Tomasian and dished to Zadourian for a layup. Zadourian made a go-ahead free throw to complete the three-point play, and her eight-point fourth quarter, with 36.5 seconds to play.
Davis drove the baseline and got a blocking foul to earn the winning free throws, but the Nitros did little to help themselves out on their final two possessions — a traveling call bringing the ball up the court on the first and a would-be tying running three-pointer launched from just beyond halfcourt when there were still several seconds left to close distance to the basket on the game's final play.
"It shouldn't have come down to the last two possessions," said Glendale Coach Tania Adary, whose team led, 8-3, after a first quarter in which the Falcons made just one field goal before getting outscored, 15-6, in the second period. "We should have totally just changed what we wanted to change in the third and fourth [quarters]. We gave up double-digit points in both quarters. ...[It was] little things that we kind of stopped doing or we didn't finish doing."