SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — The seniors on the Glendale High boys' basketball team promised before the season that they wouldn't graduate without giving Coach Steve Snodgress his first playoff win in his 16-year tenure.
They fulfilled their promise Friday.
The Nitros fought off a number of challenges from a scrappy Diamond Bar team and never trailed in a 56-49 home win in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division IA playoffs. It was the program's first postseason victory since a 56-54 triumph against Santa Monica on Feb. 16, 1993 in the first round of the Division IAA playoffs.
Glendale (14-13) will visit top-seeded Mission Viejo (24-3) at 7 p.m. in Tuesday's second round.
"This win means everything," said Nitros senior Sevan Pogosyan, who led all scorers with 18 points and contributed a game-high four assists."We talked before the season and we said we wanted to finish at least third in [the Pacific] League and win one CIF playoff game, and we got it."
They earned the win with a balanced offensive output from their starters, a critical performance from Bobby Casaburi off the bench and a defense that stopped the Brahmas (14-15) nearly each time they seemed to be poised to take a lead.
Glendale's Arada Zakarian had 10 points and two steals, including six points during a five-minute stretch to start the second half. The Nitros took a 29-26 lead into the half and less than a minute into the third quarter, starting center David Yetenikyan picked up his third personal foul and was replaced.
But Glendale wasn't flustered.
It went on a 12-2 run to build a 13-point lead with three minutes to play in the quarter. Diamond Bar missed its first five shots of the quarter and Glendale was four of six during the run.
"Coach just prepared us mentally to stay strong the whole game," Zakarian said. "Coach got us ready."
But Diamond Bar would not fold.
It clawed back to within four on two occasions in the fourth quarter, forcing Glendale timeouts and creating some nervous moments.
"We had that little run in the third quarter, but they are so tenacious," Snodgress said. "They kept answering back. They're a scrappy, tough team."
The second time the Brahmas were within four in the fourth, Casaburi scored the last of his nine points to give the Nitros a six-point lead with three minutes to play. Diamond Bar never got closer than five the rest of the way, as Glendale utilized an efficient shooting performance and a strong defensive effort to earn the win.
The Nitros — who also received eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks from Yetenikyan and six points from Edmond Tahmazyan — shot 20 of 44 (45.5%) from the field and held the Brahmas to a 16 of 44 (36.4%) effort.
"We did not take bad shots," Snodgress said. "It's nice we didn't take bad shots, but I would've liked to push the action a bit more."
Snodgress and the Nitros shifted their focus on to Mission Viejo after the win.
"I know Mission Viejo is as good as it gets," he said. "Our kids will be ready."
Added Pogosyan: "We're the underdogs, but we're going to come out and play ball."