Spartans girls' basketball too much for inexperienced Falcons

SOUTH PASADENA — For the past six weeks, the Crescenta Valley High and La Cañada girls' basketball teams have used the South Pasadena High Summer League as a barometer.

The Falcons have looked for many of their players to adapt to the varsity level, with most having little to no varsity experience. The Spartans are looking for potential lineup combinations and base their offense around standout Courtney Chen.

Chen grabbed the spotlight when the two teams met Monday night, as she scored a game-high 17 points to lead La Cañada to a 47-32 win against Crescenta Valley.

La Cañada Coach Tamar Hill said Chen, a reigning All-CIF Southern Section Division III-A first team and All-Area second-team honoree last season, showed signs that's she's recovering well from a calf injury she sustained several weeks ago.

"It's about her being a scorer and getting her teammates involved," said Hill, whose team improved to 8-1 in the league with a final contest against Arcadia set for 6 p.m. Wednesday. "I don't think there's anybody around that's excited about guarding Courtney.

"She's still coming back. Summer is summer, and we've been playing a lot of games and hardly any practices."

The Spartans also received seven points from Sarah Borland and six apiece from Alyssa Miller and Keilee Bessho to turn back the Falcons.

Crescenta Valley never led Monday. La Cañada built a commanding 27-5 halftime advantage before the Falcons shot better in the second half.

"We have a mixture of junior varsity and three varsity players," Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez said. "Right now, it's about our younger players, and we are a very young team, trying to get better in different areas and finding out if they can play at the varsity level.

"We've come here to this league in the past as one of the strongest teams. In the first half, they weren't listening to some of the things we went over, like reversing the ball. In the second half, we started from zero and we outscored them. It's about going out and trying to improve."

The Spartans took a 14-4 lead on a steal and layup by Chen with 8:05 remaining in the first half. Chen, who averaged 15.3 points, 4.1 steals and 3.6 assists last season en route to being named to the All-Rio Hondo League's first team, connected on a three-pointer with 1:10 left in the first half to extend the lead to 25-5.

Crescenta Valley got a pair of three-pointers from Rachel Nakamura, her second slicing the Spartans' lead to 40-23 with 6:01 left. Crescenta Valley got a game-high nine points from Emily Beglarian.

The Falcons competed without Ella Stepanian, a reigning All-Pacific League first-team selection. Perez said Stepanian will likely miss next season after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus several weeks ago. Stepanian hurt her knee and suffered an elbow injury June 30 while competing in an Ararat Homenetmen game. She averaged 14.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game for the Falcons last season.

Crescenta Valley will conclude the league with a game against Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

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