BURBANK — The Crescenta Valley High girls' basketball team had a three-point lead in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter Monday against Burroughs when the its top player went down with an injury.
With 5:41 left to play, sophomore Ella Stepanian fell to the floor battling for a rebound, striking her head on the hardwood. Stepanian received medical attention and left the floor under her own power.
"The refs wouldn't let [Stepanian] back into the game and they said she would have to be cleared by a doctor," Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez.
With their leading scorer on the bench, the Falcons were outscored by the Indians by four points in the fourth quarter to pull out a 33-32 Pacific League victory at Burroughs.
At the time of her injury, Stepanian had a team-high 14 points to go along with six rebounds and three blocks.
In the waning seconds of the game, Perez said without Stepanian in the contest, his team was limited in its options to score the winning basket.
"Without her in the game [Burroughs] can play off some of our other players and they can trap a little more aggressively and it really limits some of the options that we can do," said Perez, whose team is ranked 12th in CIF Southern Section Division IA. "It definitely made a difference not having her in there."
Burroughs (7-9, 2-1 in league) was able to win the game despite shooting 24% (12 of 50) in the game.
After losing to Pasadena Friday, 56-35, Indians' Coach Vicky Oganyan was not happy with the contribution of some of her players. As a result, those players did not start against the Falcons (9-6, 1-2).
Junior center Aysia Shellmire didn't start Monday and entered the game with just a few seconds remaining in the first quarter. But once she was in, Shellmire proved to be the difference-maker, scoring a game-high 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
"We are very young and I was happy with the way we were able to keep our composure out there," said Shellmire, who scored 45 points last week in a league game against Hoover. "I really feel like we came together as a team and we were able to keep pushing through."
Crescenta Valley held a 28-25 lead when Stepanian had to leave the game. The Indians made it a one-point game when Shellmire converted a layup and then put the team in front, 29-28, on a put-back at the 5:32 mark.
However, the Falcons were able to regain the lead, 30-29, on a bucket by Samira Seraji only to see Burroughs surge in front by one following two free throws by April Harris.
Another Shellmire basket gave the hosts a three-point lead until the Falcons' Lexi Mirzaian made a basket of her own with 2:01 remaining to cut the deficit to one, 33-32.
Crescenta Valley had two late possessions in the final moments of the game, but came up short on both.
Oganyan said her team had problems with the Crescenta Valley defense, especially in the opening quarter.
In the first, both teams combined to convert just three of 20 shots from the field with 13 turnovers, as the Falcons went up, 5-4.
"I think it's just this year we have a hard time adjusting to defenses and reading defenses, which is kind of expected," said Oganyan, whose team won the Pacific League championship last season. "It's hard for me sometimes to draw up plays because the game is going just so fast for them and they just can't read it in time."
Those struggles were evident in the second quarter when Crescenta Valley took a nine-point lead, 15-6, with 4:19 left. However, Shellmire lifted the hosts out of their funk, scoring six points in a 10-0 Indians run to end the quarter that gave Burroughs a 16-15 lead at the half.
"She just wanted the ball more and she got it," said Perez of Shellmire. "We were trying, but she just seemed to want it more than we did."
The Falcons did regain the lead in the third quarter to take their three-point cushion into the fourth.
Mirzaian had seven points for Crescenta Valley.