LA CRESCENTA — After winning its first two games by an average of 57.5 points, the Crescenta Valley High girls' basketball team encountered its first big test Friday night.
Crescenta Valley couldn't solve Thousand Oaks in regulation time, but turned to its standout player for a huge performance in overtime.
Crescenta Valley received 29 points from Ella Stepanian, including seven in overtime, to record a 45-35 victory against visiting Thousand Oaks in a semifinal contest of the Falcon Classic.
Crescenta Valley (3-0), which outscored TO, 11-1, in overtime, will meet West Ranch (3-0) in the tournament's championship game at 7:45 p.m. Saturday.
Stepanian, a senior guard who missed all of last season with a knee injury, had a chance to give the Falcons the lead in the final minute of regulation. However, she missed a pair of free throws with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Stepanian, a former All-Pacific League selection, didn't let the missed opportunity deflate her throughout the four-minute overtime session.
“I knew going into overtime that I had to step it up,” she said. “We'd been waiting for a game like this and wanting to meet the challenge.
“I was able to make some shots in the overtime and now we get to play for the championship.”
With the teams deadlocked at 34 entering overtime, Crescenta Valley received back-to-back three-pointers from Tanisha Minasian and Stepanian inside the first 30 seconds to grab a 40-34 advantage. Stepanian then made a jump shot to give the Falcons a 42-35 lead with 2:45 left.
Thousand Oaks (2-1) couldn't get closer and Crescenta Valley ran out the clock.
“We played well the whole game defensively, but we couldn't get some baskets,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez, who received eight points apiece from Minasian and Alisa Shinn. “We didn't play great offensively, but our superstar stepped it up when we needed her to.”
Thousand Oaks held a 23-21 halftime advantage, but Crescenta Valley bounced back in the third quarter to own a 30-28 lead.
Stepanian made a pair of free throws to give Crescenta Valley a 32-29 lead with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter. The Lancers tied it at 34 on a layup by Taylor Halby with 2:15 to go in regulation.
“We were expecting a good fight [from Thousand Oaks] and it was such an intense game,” Stepanian said. “I think when Tanisha made that three-pointer to start overtime, it really woke us up and gave us that extra spark.
“We want to be able to learn from this type of game experience.”
Crescenta Valley opened the tournament with victories against Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies and Whittier on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.