Nitros looking for big upset

With Muir High's boys' basketball team stunningly forfeiting its Pacific League title along with 20 victories, Glendale's subsequent ascension into third place in the final standings, a rare playoff home game and the Nitros' first postseason victory since 1993, just one round into the CIF Southern Section Division IA playoffs and it's already been quite a surprising and historic run for Glendale basketball.

"It's been great," said Glendale Coach Steve Snodgress, who coached his first CIF playoff victory in Friday's first-round 56-49 win over Diamond Bar. "Just to get there as a third-place team was a bonus and to get a home game against another third-place team worked out perfectly."

Tonight, though, the playoff road gets infinitely tougher, as the Nitros make the long trek down to Mission Viejo to face the top-seeded Diablos. And, while the Nitros' fate has been a bit surprising, the ascents of Division IA fourth-seeded Crescenta Valley and Division 6 top-seeded Renaissance Academy have not been, with the Falcons set to travel to face Warren and the Wildcats hosting Arshag Dickranian.

Renaissance (21-6) has left a trail of battered foes over the first two rounds of Division 6 action, decimating St. Monica Academy, 83-15, in the first round before a 121-43 throttling of Bethel Christian in Friday's second round.

"I think we're getting better," said Renaissance Coach Sid Cooke, whose team hosts tonight's game at 6:30 p.m. at the Pasadena Boys and Girls' Club. "We struggled at the end of the regular season and we learned a lot from that. We're trying to build on those games at the end of the year against all those good teams."

Renaissance finished the regular season losing three out of its last four, with losses to Price, Ribet Academy and El Camino Real. But a season-long schedule against top opposition seems to have prepared the Wildcats for what has been an overmatched Division 6 field.

"If we play our game and do what we're supposed to do, I think we'll be fine," said Cooke of his team's chances in the quarters tonight against Arshag Dickranian, the tournament's ninth seed and the third-place finisher in the Mulholland League.

The Lion (15-13) has defeated its first two opponents with ease, as well, taking down Southlands Christian, 70-50, before beating Trinity Classical, 51-39.

The winner will face Joshua Springs or fourth-seeded L.A. Adventist on Friday in the semifinals.

Crescenta Valley (24-4) will take on a Warren squad (9-9) that bested La Quinta La Quinta, 58-51, after earning an at-large bid out of the San Gabriel Valley League.

"I know they're coming out of a tough league," said Falcons Coach Shawn Zargarian of the Bears. "I know they've played a real tough schedule. They're scrappy. They play hard."

And they also like to use their defense to dictate the tempo of the game, according to Zargarian. That's something the coach believes his Falcons must fend off.

"The first thing we talked about at practice [on Saturday] was let's play at the pace we want to play," said Zargarian, whose team plays at 7 p.m. tonight. "I really do think if we can execute our offense, we'll be OK.

"I don't know if they can match up with our size and our guards."

The Falcons, who finished second in the Pacific League, knocked out Colton, 74-56, in the opening round and will play El Toro or Huntington Beach in Friday's quarterfinals if they advance.

Glendale would play West Ranch or Edison in a Friday quarterfinal matchup, but the Nitros are far from overlooking No. 1 Mission Viejo.

"Outstanding team and ranked No. 1. I think that says it all," Snodgress said. "We know we have a formidable opponent in front of us."

Mission Viejo (24-3) won the South Coast League and cruised past La Sierra, 73-50, on Friday en route to tonight's matchup with the 16th-seeded Nitros (14-13).

Snodgress believes defense will be the key against a Diablos team that is averaging 69 points per game.

"We have to play a spotless game defensively," Snodgress said. "They have a lot of different weapons."

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