To some degree, Ella Stepanian needed to reinvent herself after returning to the court following a serious knee injury sustained in 2012.
The injury shelved the Crescenta Valley High girls’ basketball player for the entire 2012-13 season, leaving her to ponder how she could come back and make an impact for the Falcons for her senior campaign.
A position change from forward to guard turned out to be a boost for Stepanian, who came back with a vengeance to average 10.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, five steals and 7.4 assists per game en route to being named the Pacific League co-Player of the Year with Burbank’s Yazzy Sa’Dullah.
It took some time for Stepanian to shake off the rust following a year-long layoff. However, she began to flourish in her new capacity and helped the Falcons finish 20-9 and 11-3 in league for second place and advance to the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs.
“I was devastated at first with the injury and it was hard mentally and physically,” Stepanian said. “But, I was coming back for my senior year and I wanted to be able to help the team out any way I could.
“I really appreciated watching the team play and learning what they like to do. I just wanted to try to come back strong. I enjoyed playing guard. Then to come back and be named one of the league’s top players is a real honor.”
Stepanian made a huge difference for the Falcons after they went 9-18 and 4-10 in league and missed the postseason during her absence.
Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez said the Falcons flourished when Stepanian returned to the lineup.
“She came back and did all of the things she had done well before her injury,” Perez said. “She could do it all from being a great passer to rebounding and coming up with a steal.
“She went back to being the main focal point for the other teams. To see her get [the league’s co-player of the year] is great. Players like Ella might come around once every 20 years.”
In addition to Stepanian, six other local players received league recognition.
Among those named to the first team were Alisa Shinn of Crescenta Valley and Glendale’s Kristina Sahakian. Earning selection to the second team was Josie Brock of Crescenta Valley.
Shinn, a sophomore forward, averaged 12.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 1.8 steals per game.
“Alisa went out there and took her game to the next level,” Perez said. “Teams needed to have a defensive plan for her.
“Plus, she could defend and rebound well and she was able to develop her post moves more.”
Sahakian, a sophomore center, was a consistent force for Glendale, with a double-double coming regularly. She averaged 13.5 points and 11 rebounds per game for the Nitros, who finished 12-16 and 6-8 in league for fifth place.
Glendale Coach Tania Adary said Sahakian carried a huge workload on both ends of the court for the Nitros, who missed the playoffs after qualifying the previous season.
“She went out there and stepped up to the plate,” Adary said. “She had a lot to do.
“She could score and defend. She could hold her own. She also had a lot of discipline on both ends of the floor.”
Brock, a sophomore forward, averaged 5.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
Earning honorable mention were Crescenta Valley senior guard Tanisha Minasian (6.1 points and 5.3 assists per contest), Glendale senior forward Ivet Satorian (six points and three rebounds per game) and Hoover senior guard/forward Nairi Sevajian (12 points and nine rebounds per contest).