NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Can a successful summer league tournament change perceptions?
That's the question facing the Hoover High boys' basketball team, which continued a summer of strong play in Saturday afternoon's Pool Play B finale at the Vaquero Summer Classic at Glendale Community College.
The visiting Tornadoes relied on their depth in putting away depleted St. Francis, 62-42, in advancing to Sunday's championship.
Undefeated Hoover will face unbeaten Mark Keppel of Alhambra, the Pool Play A champ, back at GCC at 3:50 p.m. for the tournament title. St. Francis, which finished 1-2 and third in its pool, takes on Glendale in the fifth-place game at 1:30 p.m.
"These types of wins are nice. It sure beats losing, but our thing in the summer is to keep on improving," Tornadoes Coach Jack Van Patten said. "We thought we'd be good this year and certainly we've had to work on it. Our secret is to continue to do what we're good at and stay away from what we're not good at and we'll be OK."
On Saturday afternoon, the Tornadoes' depth was apparent as five players scored seven or more points, including senior guards Jashley Francisco and Arvin Atakhanian, who teamed up for 30 points.
The duo seemed at the epicenter of each thwarted Golden Knights' rally.
St. Francis, which trailed by 11 at halftime, pulled to within 31-27 on a three-pointer from Jake Beck (team-high 12 points) off an assist from Jordan Lynch with 14:37 remaining.
Beck's triple was immediately answered down court when Francisco found a wide open Teo Davidian, who buried his own three-pointer to put Hoover back up by seven.
St. Francis again surged and climbed within 36-31 with 12:25 remaining on an offensive putback by Philip Little.
Yet, Hoover answered back on its possession with a slashing layup from Atakhanian as the Tornadoes' lead was buoyed to 38-31.
The bucket marked the first two points of a Hoover 10-0 run capped by a free throw from Atakhanian that propelled the Tornadoes to a 46-31 advantage with 8:49 remaining.
"We're pretty deep, we hustle and we shoot the ball well," said Van Patten, whose team hasn't posted a winning season since 2007-08. "Once I can figure out what to do on offense, we may have something."
The first half of play was somewhat seesaw with St. Francis leading, 10-8, until Hoover countered with a 9-0 run.
St. Francis stayed within 21-18 before the Tornadoes closed with the final eight points of the half.
"Last year, we were pretty bad and we wouldn't have won these games. It was great to beat [Crescenta Valley] and now St. Francis," said Francisco, whose squad has dropped eight straight regular season games to Crescenta Valley. "Maybe people will see we're a good team."
As for St. Francis, perhaps the defeat was not an indicator of future success, as the team played without three starters, including injured junior forward Evan Crawford.
"We just weren't missing three starters. We were missing our three biggest players who are our most physical players," St. Francis Coach Ray O'Brien said. "We're not the most athletic of teams, so we know if we don't execute, we won't win and that's what happened today."