LA CRESCENTA — Without its primary facilitator and, at the same time, go-to player, the La Cañada High girls’ basketball team relied on high energy on both ends of the court and suffocating defense to prevail in its season opener Tuesday evening.
Senior guard and reigning All-Area Girls' Basketball Player of the Year Courtney Chen sustained a concussion in the Spartans’ most recent scrimmage and missed La Cañada’s tilt with Monroe in the Falcons Classic at Crescenta Valley High School.
Sarah Kurdoghlian started in place of Chen and showed poise and kept up the good play from the point guard position to lead the Spartans to a 42-27 victory over the Vikings.
“I think we worked well together and had good effort,” said Kurdoghlian, who scored seven points, dished out four assists and grabbed three rebounds. “I wasn’t nervous. I knew the offense well.”
The sophomore was effective in penetrating against the Vikings defense, but to coach Tamar Hill’s chagrin, the drive often didn’t result in a basket, as the Spartans shot 27% from the field, despite easy opportunities.
Still, La Cañada (1-0) nullified the poor shooting with high energy and good effort, holding the Vikings to 27 points with a steady dose of a full-court press and solid on-the-ball defending, which led to turnovers.
The Spartans also dominated the glass, giving themselves multiple opportunities in a single possession.
Overall, Hill was pleased with the team’s play, especially without Chen.
“Would I love to make more layups? Sure, but I love that we gave ourselves the opportunity to shoot them,” said Hill, who led the Spartans to the Rio Hondo League championship and the CIF semifinals last season. “We hustled, had good energy, played good defense. Mission accomplished.
“We did some good things and we need to work on some things.”
The Spartans never trailed in the contest and used balanced scoring to maintain separation from Monroe. Senior forward Alyssa Miller paced the squad with 13 points, including four three-pointers. Aundrea Assakhanian, Keilee Bessho and Marie Weston each put in six points.
Miller’s second three from behind the arc gave the Spartans a 15-7 advantage in the second quarter and the lead would not dip to less than eight the rest of the way. Issakhanian’s two offensive rebounds in the possession set up a good look for Miller. The play highlighted a 9-2 run in the latter stages of the second quarter.
Bessho was also all over the court and put together an all-around game with nine rebounds, six assists and four steals.
“It’s the first game of the year and it’s a good start,” said Hill, who took over the program in 2000. “We just gotta work hard.”