Crescenta Valley girls' basketball lose game, top scorer

BURBANK — Trailing wire to wire in Tuesday afternoon's Burroughs Summer League game was hardly the biggest loss of the week for the Crescenta Valley High girls' basketball team.

The real gut punch came over the weekend when All-Pacific League forward Ella Stepanian suffered an injury that Falcons Coach Jason Perez said will not only cost her the summer but perhaps her junior high school season, as well.

"It's probable, I don't want to say definite yet, but ACL is what they think," said Perez, who said Stepanian suffered the injury on Saturday playing in an Ararat Homenetmen game. "She has a fractured elbow, but that will be fine. It's the knee that's the big deal. We're assuming we've lost her for the season."

With Stepanian, the team's leading scorer last season, watching from the bench with a bulky brace encasing her right leg from mid-thigh down, it was up to the rest of the emerging Falcons to fill the void against Canyon Country Canyon on Tuesday.

And while Crescenta Valley never cut the Cowboys' lead below double-digits in the second half of a 32-22 loss, Perez was happy with what he saw.

"I'll tell you what, the girls responded today," said Perez, who got five points from Melanie Wilson and four apiece from Sydney Cummings, Cynthia Shahbandeh and Elise Ortega. "We played pretty good today, I know we lost, but that's the first time they've had to play without her and I thought, for a first game, to lose to that Canyon team by 10 points and to play as hard as we did, there's a good sign.

"The girls are going to step up and respond and we're going to be OK."

Crescenta Valley went through long dry spells in the second half, which it entered trailing by 12, but succeeded in stealing the momentum away from Canyon in the final minutes.

Kali Vittallo, who led Canyon with 16 points, put her team up, 32-18, with a wide-open layup with 2:44 left, but the Falcons responded with quick back-to-back buckets.

Cummings scored first on a putback and Ortega turned a steal into a fast-break score moments later to cut it to 32-22. Had the Falcons been able to get the deficit into single digits, the running clock would have reverted to standard timing per tournament rules and perhaps given the Falcons a chance to stretch out the end of the game.

"I wasn't really thinking about getting [the deficit] into single digits," Perez said. "I was just thinking about getting our kids in and watching us play and seeing how hard we were going to play."

Crescenta Valley trailed, 14-6, midway through the first half, but rallied to within 16-12 in the final three minutes on a floater by Ortega and a slashing layup by Cummings. But with 30 seconds left, Canyon closed the half on a 4-0 run.

The Cowboys would also score the first four points of the second half on consecutive layups to put the Falcons in a hole they would never climb out of.

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