Column: ‘My record is still alive!’: High school boys basketball state record holder reacts to LaMelo Ball’s 92-point game
Like many sports fans, Tigran Grigoryan watched highlights of LaMelo Ball’s 92-point game for Chino Hills High on Tuesday night with great fascination.
His favorite part of the video was when Ball finally stopped shooting.
“He walked off the court and I’m like, ‘OK, my record is still alive!’’’ Grigoryan said with a laugh.
Yes, believe it or not, Ball’s splurge wasn’t even the best scoring night by a boy in Southern California high school basketball history.
You probably have never heard of Tigran Grigoryan, but every Ball basket magically shoved another bit of dirt off memories of the obscure night when he outballed even Ball.
In February 2003, Grigoryan set a boys’ state record when he scored 100 points for Pico Rivera Armenian Mesrobian School during a 114-47 victory inside a nearly empty gym at now-closed Pacific Christian High.
“A lifetime ago,’’ he said Wednesday.
There is no existing video from that game, no trumpeting tweets, no Facebook posts, no “SportsCenter” highlights, and Grigoryan can’t even find the photo where he channeled his inner Wilt Chamberlain and held up a piece of notebook paper with the number “100’’ scrawled upon it.
“The only people who saw it happen were the ones who there,’’ he said. “And that wasn’t many.’’
You could even say he scored the points under a different name, Grigoryan incorrectly spelled as “Grigorian” in this newspaper’s account of the feat and unchanged in the record books for the last 14 years.
“I figured it was too much trouble to call somebody to correct it,’’ he said.
That wasn’t the only mistake of the evening. A day later, Grigoryan and some friends carefully went through the scorebook and discovered student statisticians had miscounted. He actually scored 102 points.
Considering that number is now in national record books and stands as the highest-scoring boys’ game ever in California, wouldn’t it be worth it to pull out the book and correct it?
“I would,’’ he said, ‘’except the book has also been lost.’’
In many ways, far more than 14 years seems to separate the accomplishments of Ball and those of the man whose record he could not break.
For Ball, the night just seemed to be another orchestrated step on his path to professional stardom, with his father LaVar even predicting similar nights in the future.
For Grigoryan, it was a high school record set by a high school kid who would never scale those basketball heights again.
Ball, a sophomore, has already committed to UCLA and is seen as an NBA prospect. Grigoryan, who was listed as 6 feet tall but is actually 5-9, never so much as made a recruiting visit and has never again played basketball in anything other than an intramural or recreation league. He graduated with a business degree from Cal State Fullerton and works in commercial real estate in downtown Los Angeles.
“So I showed stories about Ball to my co-workers, and showed them my name in those stories, and they still thought it was a joke,’’ Grigoryan, 31, said with another chuckle.
Where Ball celebrated his scoring night by basking in national media attention and complimentary tweets from all sorts of pro athletes, Grigoryan hosted a pizza slumber party for his teammates.
“I could do that because I didn’t have many teammates,’’ he said.
Because Mesrobian was such a small school, there were only eight players on his team — six in uniform that night. Not that it mattered, because Grigoryan was so hot they needed only one.
“Oh man, it was ridiculous,’’ Grigoryan said. “You felt untouchable. You felt like you’re on a different level. I was throwing up anything and it was all going in.’’
At halftime, he had 53 points and his coach, Vic Karapetian, called everyone together in the locker room.
Karapetian, a basketball savant and former Mesrobian student, was only 20 years old and in his first coaching season.
The only people who saw it happen were the ones who there, and that wasn’t many
Tigran Grigoryan, holds boys’ state record of 100 points scored in a game
“I said, ‘Oh my goodness, let’s keep giving him the ball,’’’ Karapetian recalled. “I saw it as a great chance to gain attention for our small school and help a great player get recruited. I thought, if we can do it in the context of the game, let’s go for it and make this about Tigran.’’
This is where the 14 years come together, where the stories of LeMelo Ball and Tigran Grigoryan collide. After both games, both players’ coaches were accused of unsportsmanlike conduct for allowing one person to dominate a game while running up the score.
Chino Hills was ripped by Los Osos Coach Dave Smith after the 146-123 Chino Hills victory. Mesrobian was shunned by Pacific Christian’s coach, K.C. Curry, who refused to shake hands with his counterpart.
But then the stories differ again. While Chino Hills is steadfastly unapologetic about its actions, Mesrobian officials apologized the following day, and Karapetian remains remorseful about that night.
“Tigran was just doing his job, but for me, it was a misguided attempt to gain attention for the school and the players,’’ Karapetian said. “And there was no excuse for it.’’
Karapetian, 34, is the successful owner of the Sofa U Love furniture store chain, lives in Woodland Hills with his wife and four children, and no longer coaches basketball on a regular basis. But he said his life was forever changed by the night, and that his ensuing seven years of coaching were dominated by an emphasis on sportsmanship.
“I saw what happened with LaMelo Ball and immediately I shook my head,’’ Karapetian said. “What they did, it made me uncomfortable, because that’s how we once did it, and it was wrong. And from that moment, everything with our program changed. We helped opposing players up, no technical fouls, no bad language, empathy for the other team.”
“I wasn’t trying to disrespect anybody,” he said. “My teammates were my lifelong friends, they were unselfish, they knew I was hot, they passed me the rock, nothing premeditated or planned.’’
He still has the jersey from that night. He still has his shoes. They are in a trophy case in his Whittier home. Considering he is one of only 19 boys and girls nationally to score 100 points in a high school game — a list that includes the Southland’s Cheryl Miller and Lisa Leslie — the gear is probably worth something.
He doesn’t look at it like that. His glorious night was not about getting paid. It wasn’t about finding fame. It was about feeling untouchable and eating pizza and knocking down memories that still fuel him when he’s running in a pickup game at 6 a.m. inside a downtown gym.
“I’ll always have the good old days,’’ Tigran Gregoryan said. “That’s enough.’’
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