By Jessica SHUMATE, intern
History was made on Saturday evening when the Crescenta Valley varsity girls’ basketball team won the CIF Division 1A championship game against the Mira Costa Mustangs. After four intense quarters of unforgiving combat the Lady Falcons edged out the Mustangs to win the game 37-36 to become the first girls’ basketball team in CV history to bring home a CIF victory.
Walking onto the court at Azusa Pacific University, they knew that their opponent, Mira Costa, had beaten Burroughs in the semifinals. Burroughs was a strong team CV had lost to twice during the regular season. But since those losses, the girls fought diverse talent on their way to the championship game and felt they were ready to take on the Mustangs.
The early part of the first half of Saturday’s game didn’t go well for the Falcons. It took time for the girls to warm up and they struggled to keep possession of the ball. But Coach Jason Perez knew that their strength was in their defense.
“We knew that we were going to match up defensively with any team we played,” said Coach Jason Perez. “[Early on we knew] our defense was what was going to win us games and give us a chance at a championship.”
Offensively, Mira Costa had the upper hand, but it was obvious that CV’s strong defense was going to cause the Mustangs trouble. Falcon senior Josie Brock played aggressively fighting for possession of the ball but found herself in foul territory. Perez quickly benched her to save her for the second half of the game.
In her place, sophomore Senayt Tassew swooped in and at one point barely beat the shot clock to score a basket. That brought the crowd to its feet and the Falcons maintained that energy by continuously shooting right before the shot clock ran empty. Center Alisa Shinn’s buzzer-beating layup signaled the end of the first half with the score 21-14 in CV’s favor.
In the second half, Mira Costa was the team that had a slow start, struggling to get back on the board. While their offensive performance decreased, CV’s well-known second half defense kicked in. Along with a few baskets sprinkled here and there, the Falcons were able to hold back the Mustangs with a score of 32-24.
Fourth quarter panic struck the Falcons when the team realized how close they were to a victory. They began to fumble and miss simple shots. Mira Costa took advantage of the team’s lack of focus to put some points on the board. With two minutes left in the game, the Mustangs were down just by two.
Having the entire stadium on its feet added to the bubbling stress. This led CV to make bad passes, giving Mira Costa possession time after time.
“When we’re not playing our best basketball we get into our heads and shut down,” said Brock. “I kept telling [my teammates], ‘Don’t give up, please don’t give up.’”
Fortunately, stress showed no favorites. The Mustangs also grew jittery and were unable to make a basket leaving the score 37-35 with 38 seconds left in the game. A timeout was called by the Mustangs, which helped both sides regroup before returning to the court for the last seconds of the game.
Mira Costa was soon fouled and given a chance to end the game. After failing to make their free throws, Falcon senior Shinn snagged the rebound and held on as the clock ran down to zero. The Falcon sideline began to celebrate a victory until a faint whistle blew from the opposite side of the court. Junior Polin Megerdichian had fouled the Mustangs’ Halle Maeda with .3 left to give her a chance to make three free throws.
Maeda stood on the free throw line with the score still reading 37-35. The Falcons watched as she made her first shot but missed the next bringing the score to 36 Mustangs to CV’s 37. For the last shot, as the ball left her fingertips, the stadium held its collective breath. The shot bounced off the basket and CV supporters broke out into chaos.
“I feel for that kid,” said Perez. “That’s got to be the most pressure she’s felt. To make the first and miss the two was lucky for us.”
Both sidelines shed tears, but for very different reasons. The CV varsity girls’ basketball team wore their new CIF champion shirts to pose with their new plaque under the scoreboard that read 37-36. Afterward, Shinn reminisced about the moment winning CIF became the ultimate goal.
“It’s a crazy thought. I remember the exact day when we were sitting in Perez’s classroom and he said we were gonna win CIF this year, we are gonna be in that last game, and this is going to be our year,” she said. “We’re truly blessed.”