Teachers school celebs

NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Hometown heroics trumped star power on Friday night in the fourth-annual Stars Shooting for Hope celebrity basketball game, which filled the bleachers of the Hoover High gymnasium for a charitable cause, while once again putting on an exciting hoops exhibition between local teachers and administrators and celebrities from the worlds of Hollywood and sports.

Proceeds from admission, raffles and a silent auction raised $3,000, the most in the history of the event, for the Desi Geestman Foundation, which provides direct services to childhood cancer patients.

"It seriously gets better every single year," said Hoover teacher Edgar Melik-Stepanyan, who organized the event with help from the Hoover and Toll Middle School Associated Student Bodies. "Everything's flowed so smoothly."

Recent Hoover graduate and former Tornadoes player Samson Injigulyan scored 11 fourth-quarter points for the teachers, who held the celebrities without a field goal for the first seven minutes of the 10-minute final period to build a 12-point lead and then survived a furious celebrity rally to pull out a 66-63 win.

"I didn't expect to play this hard, but when [the celebrities] came and I saw there was actual athletes, I had to start playing just a little," said Injigulyan, who is currently co-coach of the Tornadoes junior varsity team along with former Tornado Sevada Minassians, who also played in the game. "I didn't want to get embarrassed."

The celebrity team was led by 22 points from St. Louis Ramswide receiver Austin Pettis, who had a look at two potential game-tying three-pointers in the final 20 seconds, but couldn't knock one down to send the game to overtime for the third straight year.

"It was a great time, it seemed like everyone had some fun," said Pettis, one of three NFL alums in the game, along with former New Orleans Saints cornerback Jason David and Skyler Fulton, who played for several pro teams. "I like doing this kind of stuff. Whenever I have some time and I hear about some type of charity event, especially involving sports, it's always an easier pitch to come and help out."

Pettis and Crescenta Valley High boys' basketball Coach Shawn Zargarian traded three-pointers to open the game and Pettis knocked down two more long balls in the opening quarter to help the celebrities get out to an early lead. But soon the teachers surged into the lead, going up by 10 on a jumper by GUSD teacher Chuck Saint midway through the second quarter.

Injigulyan hit a three to fortify the teachers' lead at 43-32 with 5:30 left in the third before the stars made a big push to close the quarter. Pettis and General Hospital star Drew Cheetwood scored back-to-back layups followed by a steal by Ultimate Fighting Championships grappler Manny Gamburyan that led to another bucket.

The teachers' lead was down to one after Pettis' layup at the third-quarter buzzer, but Injigulyan and the teachers' defense took over in the fourth to widen the lead again. Consecutive three-point plays by Pettis and Cheetwood and a short baseline jumper by General Hospital's Jess Rowland with 54 seconds left put the celebrities one possession away from a tie, but the comeback fell short.

The celebrity squad also featured local undefeated junior middleweight boxer Vanes Martirosyan, film and television actor Ryan Rottman and model Tyler Lough.

"It's my people, it's my hometown," Martirosyan said. "People support me, I want to support my people also.

"I was rusty. I haven't played in a while, but it was fun. I'll come back next year."

More information about the Desi Geestman Foundation, which helps families affected by cancer with lodging, assistance with rent, utility, and car payments, grocery cards, gas cards, and in many cases, last wishes for ill children, can be accessed at http://www.desigeestmanfoundation.org.

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