Glendale, Flintridge Prep girls' basketball look for playoff returns

After making an appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs last season with a senior-laden team, the Glendale High girls’ basketball team now finds itself partially rebuilding.

Glendale Coach Tania Adary saw some progress made during the summer, giving her a better idea of what might be on tap for the Nitros.

“We have a new team for the most part and they have a lot of energy,” said Adary, whose team took fourth in the Pacific League before falling in the first round of the playoffs last season. “The new players seemed to come together in the summer and we hope that we can mesh well once the season starts.

“We come in with high hopes and want to show a lot of heart out there on the court.”

The Pacific League will figure to be very competitive with Burroughs, Burbank, Arcadia and Crescenta Valley in the mix. The Nitros would like to put themselves in the conversation with the aforementioned teams.

Glendale will bring back senior guard Karah Hui and senior guard/forward Ivet Satorian to play alongside sophomore center Kristina Sahakian.

Adary, who will begin her ninth season with Glendale, said it might take a while for the team to jell.

“We’ll use the first game or two to test everything out,” Adary said. “We want to make sure we are competing no matter the outcome.

“We’ll play in some tournaments [in December] and use that to see where we stand going into league.”

Flintridge Prep enjoyed a breakthrough campaign under the direction of first-year co-coaches Kevin Kiyomura and Jayme Kiyomura-Chan. The duo was named All-Area Girls’ co-Coaches of the Year after leading the Rebels to a second-place finish in the Prep League, followed by a semifinal appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA playoffs and a trip to the Division V state tournament.

The Rebels will look to follow that up with another successful season. They bring back senior guard Maya Okamoto, who averaged 8.9 points per game last season while earning all-league and All-CIF recognition.

Sophomore forward Tala Ismail, junior forward Lacy Coan and junior forward Tyler Faulkner will also be back for the Rebels, who will look to give freshmen guards Renae Tamura and Taylor Yoshida some playing time.

“It’s about being able to validate all of that hard work,” Kiyomura said. “For the new people, they can work hard and persevere.

“If you put the time in, then great things can happen. When you aim high, anything is possible.”

Crescenta Valley missed the playoffs last season, partly due to top player Ella Stepanian missing the entire season because of a knee injury. Stepanian, a former All-Area pick, will look to regain her stamina and rejoin a squad expected to be rich in depth.

The first part of the season will be a time frame used to examine Stepanian’s endurance. The senior guard will be saddled with plenty of responsibilities, ranging from scoring to rebounding.

“She’s huge and one of the best players in the region,” Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez said. “She’s athletic, fast and long.

“She can do it all in terms of scoring, dribbling, rebounding on both ends and playing great defense.”

The Falcons, who will look to battle for one of the top spots in the Pacific League, will have a senior core to help take some of the burden off Stepanian. Among those ready to help are forwards Emily Beglarian and Cynthia Shahvandeh and guards Jackie Wilson and Tanisha Minasian.

“We like what we have,” Perez said. “We’ve got height up front and guards who can move the ball well.

“When you add Ella into the equation, this team has the potential to be among the strongest we’ve had in a while.”

Holy Family will enter the new campaign armed with lofty expectations after qualifying for the playoffs last season. Coach Ernest Siy will turn to four returning starters to pave the way in the Gaels’ quest to win the Horizon League.

Several of them played on Holy Family’s junior varsity squad that that won a league title in 2012.

“The other coaches in our league have pointed to us to win league this time,” Siy said. “It’s going to require a lot of hard work to get that done.

“It will come down to leadership and character because you can’t take anything for granted.”

Those expected to stand out for Holy Family are senior forwards Kiara Ardines and Rianne Sanchez, senior guard Melissa Chan, junior guard Charise Talaro and sophomore guard Tabitha Ruiz.

At Flintridge Sacred Heart, the Tologs will look to bounce back after finishing last in the Mission League. Flintridge Sacred Heart lost several key players to graduation, including standout Dana Budzyn.

Under second-year coach Ty Buxman, the Tologs will look to restock the shelf by turning to players with little varsity experience.

Among those expected to get plenty of playing time include sophomore guards Jenna Tran and Casey Johnson. They will be joined by senior forward Ellie DiPietro.

“They got some experience playing last year,” Buxman said. “We are going to look for them to step into their defined roles and make progress.

“When you lose seniors, you see who can step up and we feel like we have some people who can do that. The Mission League will be tough once again. We are going to use the tournaments we play in December to use that as a tool to get ready and be competitive in league.”

Glendale Adventist Academy will feature a new coach. Joseph Naguit will take over the coaching responsibilities after serving as an assistant on the school’s boys’ basketball team.

Naguit said he’s got high expectations for the Cougars, including looking to earn a top-three placement in the Liberty League.

“That’s going to be one of the main goals we will look to achieve,” Naguit said. “It’s something we believe we can do, but we’ve still got some work to do.

“We’ve got some seniors on the team who will be our anchors. We’ll try to add other to the mix to help them out.”

Among the key players for Glendale Adventist will be senior center Melisa Lopez, senior forward Brittney Gregg and senior forward Madison Federicci.

Hoover finished in last place last season in the eight-team Pacific League. With coach Stan Watson in charge and several key returners in place, the Tornadoes might be in position to escape the league’s basement.

Hoover will have a quartet of returners in the fold, including senior forward Naira Serajian, junior guard Preny Sarkissian, junior forward Melissa Manouki and sophomore forward Nanor Serajian. They will be joined by junior guard Luna Panosian.

“I think we can improve and try to win some games in our league,” Watson said. “We’ll do our best to try to hang in and, hopefully we will be rewarded.”

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