First published in the Jan. 21 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Whenever Hoover and Glendale High face each other, it is the continuation of one of the longest-running high school sports rivalries in California. So when the Nitros hosted the Tornados in boys’ basketball, it was yet another chapter added to the storied history between the two institutions.
Despite Hoover controlling most of the contest, Glendale mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to steal a 70-67 win in Pacific League play recently.
“Hoover did a great job. They came ready,” Glendale first-year coach Art Samontina said. “We just got lucky. We fought hard; they fought hard.”
Hoover (5-14 overall, 0-8 league) carried a 50-45 lead entering the fourth quarter and doubled it in the first minute of the final frame. First Tornado Justin Herrera drained a 3-pointer and then, following a Nitro miss, Mo Shareef buried a jumper to push the advantage to double digits for the first time in the game.
The teams each made a free throw before Glendale (11-12, 3-5) began the comeback by scoring the next five points. Eventually, the Nitros tied the contest at 58-58 with a 7-0 run approaching the midpoint of the period. First Haig Jivalagian had two from the charity stripe. He stole the ball back and soon after Mika Petrosian made a layup. Then, following a Hoover miss, Joshua Ballard made a three from the corner to tie the score for the sixth time.
The Tornados regained the lead but, with just under two minutes to go, Ballard scored a basket on the fast break to put the hosts up 64-63, marking the Nitros’ first lead of the contest.
Hoover’s Zack Van Patten grabbed the lead back, driving to the hoop for two, but Ballard scored at the other end. Van Patten scored again to with just over a minute to go, but it would be the last points Hoover would score.
In the final minute, Glendale scored the last four points of the game from the free throw line. Glendale’s Dior Pierre was fouled and sank both of his tries from the line to pull ahead. Hoover missed twice at the other end before sending Pierre back to the line. The senior missed both, but the Nitros got the offensive rebound. Hoover then sent Pierre back to the line, where he made one of two, making it 69-67.
Hoover then missed a shot at the other end with a chance to tie.
Petrosian was awarded two free throws with 14 seconds remaining and hit one of two for a 3-point cushion.
The Tornados quickly forced up a 3-point attempt with several seconds left, which Glendale rebounded and promptly fired down the court, seemingly to run out the remaining time. Instead, Hoover retrieved the ball and had one last look, but the try did not come close as the clock expired.
“They were nerve-wracking but, at the end, I just held my composure and I just wanted to make the free throws and take home the win for my team,” Petrosian said.
Dior Pierre led Glendale in scoring with 20 points and was a physical force inside. Three other Nitros joined him in double digits: Jivalagian and Ballard, both coming off the bench, had 12 points apiece, while Nico Zadorian had 11. Petrosian had seven points, Tino Zadorian five and Christian Pierre had three to fill out the scoring.
“It’s a big rivalry game, so I’m glad we took [the win],” Dior Pierre said. “We could have played a lot better, but we got it done and that is all that matters.”
Hoover was paced by Herrera. The freshman tallied a game-high 23 points in his first taste of the rivalry.
“I like to play freshmen. If they are good, they deserve to play. Simple as that, he’s good,” Hoover coach Jack Van Patten said.
Shareef came off the bench to score 19 points and was joined in double figures by Zack Van Patten with 12. James Akerman had nine points and Aramais Melkonyan scored four to account for the rest of the Tornado points.