First published in the Nov. 19 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
It’s time to return to the hardwood for girls’ high school basketball at Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover. This season will feature the return of a full 14-game Pacific League schedule (which had been abbreviated during the first two years of the pandemic), so all the squads are getting ready.
The Falcons won the Pacific League girls’ basketball title last season, and they want another.
“We’re looking forward to coming out and defending our championship,” CV coach Michael Flot said. “To be at the top, you’ve got to work harder than everybody because everybody is looking for you. They are gunning for you.”
The Falcons are seeking some postseason wins and development along the way.
“My main goal as a coach is for me to get better at every practice and every game, and for each girl to get better at practice and games so we get better as a team,” Flot said.
Assisting Flot with the coaching duties are Liana Esmaili and Alex Kim, who the head man is “really high on.” Flot said he is “praising” and “appreciates” the duo.
Central will be the team ideals of being better together and trust, Flot says.
“If you are in a battle, you are not going to punch anybody with an index finger. In a battle you are going to use a whole closed fist, so I always put up a fist, meaning we’re better together [when] we unite as one. Another slogan is trust, trust your teammate. So, better together and trust are the things I’ve been preaching over and over in practice.”
Defense will be on the list of priorities.
“We want to defend. That is going to be our strength and we want to score,” Flot said. “We’re going to attack, man-up, change up and play some zones, trap the basketball and run.”
Central to the Falcons’ success will be junior guard Kylie Ray, who has already attracted the attention of Division I college programs.
“She’s a hard worker, she’s a gym rat and she wants to play at the next level,” Flot said.
Fellow junior Lucia Arzoumanian will join Ray in the backcourt.
“Lulu is a great player [and] a great teammate,” Flot said. “On and off the court she is just fun.”
A pair of sophomores will also be in the mix for the Falcons: forward Darby Stayton, who will be depended on to “get rebounds and play defense,” and Keira Calaguas, who is “a point guard that can defend [and] distribute the basketball.”
Senior Victoria Prochazka will be in the front court and is a “strong rebounder.” Prochazka is one of seven seniors on the roster, joining Kristen Olavi, Aleek Zakarian, Taleen Krikorian, Charlotte Foster, Malia Donoghue and Melissa Dayag.
“This senior class has played a lot of basketball and they want to go out winning,” Flot said. “They want to leave as back-to-back league champions.”
The team at Glendale High has not been sitting idly by waiting for the season to begin.
“We’ve played a lot of summer league games and a lot of fall ball games,” coach Tadeh Mardirosian said. “We are very young, very confident, very fast and very strong.”
The lone senior for Glendale will be Jane Bassil, who also runs track at the school.
“I believe she is one of the best athletes on our campus,” Mardirosian said. “She is a quiet leader. She leads with her presence and her effort more so than her voice. She is a combination of a three, four and five when she is on the floor. We rely a lot on her athleticism because we have no size.”
The Nitros have six juniors returning this season.
“Last season we had a lot of young girls on our varsity that will be returning as juniors this year. So the experience they gained last year is definitely showing and playing a big part in this year’s season.”
One of those juniors is Carmen Avedian, who is in her third year playing varsity and will be a captain. “She is a strong leader that utilizes her teammates to be even better.”
A pair of twins, juniors Sella and Pateel Koshkerian, will be catalysts on defense. “I look for their velocity and tenacious defense in every possession.”
Mardirosian sees his squad, along with Burroughs and Crescenta Valley, as the top contenders in the Pacific League.
“We are going to fight tooth and nail to be top four and make it to the playoffs. I do believe that in the division we are in we can make a good run in the playoffs this year.”
The Tornados will be a young squad without a lot of experience.
“We look a little soft this year, admittedly. We are very, very young,” coach Stan Watson said. “As always, we want to be competitive and what we’re looking for is game-to-game progress because of our youth and inexperience.”
The Tornados will rely on team chemistry to navigate the steep challenges they’ll face.
“Our strength is our camaraderie,” Watson said. “We are a united bunch. We recognize we are the runt of the litter, but that doesn’t faze us. We continue to get out there and the girls are determined.”
Hoover has a crop of four freshman, five sophomores with limited experience, two juniors and no seniors.
One face new to Hoover is international student Iren Musayelyan of Armenia, whom the coach calls “a bright spot.” She arrives as a sophomore.
“She actually has the best skill set that we have,” Watson said. “She has decent ball skills; she will probably be our primary ball handler. I call her my international sensation.”
Sophomore Aline Melconian will serve as the Tornados’ captain.
“She is kind of a second coach out there,” the coach said. “She offers leadership and structure. Solid rebounder, decent defender.”
One of the juniors is Jayda Russ-Wheeler, who has competed on the track team but is new to the basketball court. “She’s fast. She’s a tenacious defender. Somewhat limited offensive, but I think her speed and her overall aggressiveness will help,” Watson said.
The other is Natalie Velasquez, who is a returner. “Being around the program a little bit, she can add some guidance and help the newbies understand what we are trying to do. She won’t play a large role, but she will be helpful.”
Wins in Pacific League play have been elusive for Hoover, but Watson is targeting Pasadena and Muir as potential sources. The matchups with Glendale are also on the Tornados’ collective radar.
“We are going to try to get [the Nitros], if nothing else, to pay them back for the boys’ football team,” Watson said, referencing Hoover’s last-minute loss in the Battle For the Bell this season. “Our goal is to win some league games, end of story.”