Lady Falcons are winning games, though not impressively, says coach and players.
By Brandon HENSLEY
The first minute of Tuesday night’s girls’ summer league game between the Crescenta Valley Falcons and Hart Indians didn’t go so well for junior Ella Stepanian. In a span of 40 seconds she was called travelling, and then committed sloppy foul while applying defensive pressure near half court.
The rest of the game went much better for CV’s star player. As for the Falcons in general, they won, but it wasn’t something you’d want to record and watch over and over again. They beat the Indians at Burroughs High School, 29-27, when Hart’s Nikki Asanian missed a 3-pointer as time expired, giving the Falcons a 5-1 record in the summer, not counting Wednesday night’s game at South Pasadena.
But CV Coach Jason Perez isn’t impressed so far.
“It’s not a good 5-1,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Perez explained to his team afterward that work includes doing a better job of limiting the opposition’s second-chance opportunities and executing better within CV’s half-court offense.
“Those passes cannot be made when you’re pressuring the ball,” he said, referring to his defense. “You guys weren’t pressuring the ball … our defense was designed to pressure, pressure, pressure.”
Junior point guard Tanisha Minassian, who scored four points, agreed with her coach.
“Definitely. It was a not good day for us at all,” she said.
Just like the lack of experience for the Falcons boys’ team this year means it’s a good thing they have a leader like Cole Currie, the Lady Falcons have to be thankful for Stepanian.
Asanian scored 11 points and was impressive enough as Hart’s best player, but Stepanian’s unmatched athleticism and skill was on display throughout the game. She scored 15 points on a variety of looks.
Three instances that stood out: On an out of bounds play, she caught a pass from underneath the basket, reaching out like a tight end, grabbing the ball over the defender. She then turned in midair from about 12 feet out and scored.
To start the second half, she received the ball in the post on the left side, calmly dribbled to the baseline, and with a hand in her face sank a 3-pointer.
And later in the half, from the three-point line, she drove left and shot-faked, and with good body control banked it off the glass for two points.
Those were moves probably most on the floor couldn’t make. The Falcons finished 15-12 last year and lost in the first round of the playoffs. They’re going to need more of what Stepanian provided Tuesday come this winter.
What about that rough first minute for her?
“We did practice earlier today, but that’s no excuse. I feel like sometimes you need to get into a game and mess up so you wake up and get into it,” she said.
Stepanian and Minassian, who have played together not just at CV but on club teams, showed chemistry in the first half when Hart pressed full-court. The ball swung to Stepanian and she found Minassian cutting to the middle, who went in for the layup to give CV a 9-2 lead.
Minassian talked about what she must work on individually this summer.
“Definitely taking pressure, on breaking the press, and not relying on help as much,” she said.
The Falcons were ahead all game, although it became closer than maybe it should have been. CV was up 28-16 in the second half before Hart, who won just five games last season, went on an 11-2 run, thanks to Asanain and Jessy Rea, who had seven points late.
If there was one thing Stepanian didn’t do, it was close out the game. She became passive in the final minute, where in the regular season it would seem logical to have her take the pressure shots.
“People ask me this all the time, but I’d rather give a really sick pass than just take it myself and score,” Stepanian said. “Yeah we want to score, especially in tense situations, but sometime I feel like, ‘If I take the shot and miss, well, my teammate could have made it.’”
Now that point guard Catherine Davis and center Samira Seraji have graduated, it’ll be up to experienced varsity players like Stepanian and Minassian to help lead the team, while players such as Lindsey Heckmann and Melanie Wilson will be counted on more to contribute.
“It’s a lot different than last year, but we’ve gotten much stronger communicating on defense and on offense we have more teamwork,” said Minassian.
Maybe not on Tuesday, though.
“It’s okay,” said Stepanian. “We should be beating teams by more. I think we’re a little sloppy, but it’s the beginning, so I’m okay with it.”