They’re (Barely) in it to Win it

Lady Falcons basketball receives an at-large bid to advance to postseason, and will travel to Anaheim on Saturday.

By Brandon HENSLEY

They won three of their last four regular season games, and yet it still feels like they sneaked in the playoffs somehow. But how the Lady Falcons’ basketball team got in doesn’t matter to them so much as the fact that they are in.

Now it’s on to Anaheim, a place that holds Disney magic, Angels who play baseball and Katella High School, their first round opponent in the CIF playoffs. The game is at 7 p.m.

It could be a long ride home if the Falcons fall to the Knights, but CV junior shooting guard Ella Stepanian is thankful of the opportunity.

“I don’t really care where it is as long as we get to play in the playoffs,” she said.

It will be a tough task to pull the upset. Katella finished 18-8 and went undefeated in the Orange League, capturing the title. The Falcons come in after nabbing an at-large bid. They finished tied for the fourth in the Pacific League. CV went 15-11 overall, 7-7 in league.

According to CV Coach Jason Perez, his team is playing well after finishing strongly – CV notched a 42-41 win over Arcadia last week after trailing 40-28 – and maybe the competition this season has prepared the Falcons for this moment.

“When you look at the Pacific League girls’ basketball, amongst all the different Pacific League sports, it has to be one of the toughest,” he said. “The seventh-place team (Glendale) plays the first-place (Muir) team and loses by six. You don’t see that in many sports.”

Meanwhile, the Knights steamrolled through their league, winning eight of their games by more than 20 points. Perez said after talking with coaches and scouts familiar with Katella, he has a “pretty good breakdown” of the team.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot of knowledge about the team we’re playing and now we have to go out there and win on the road,” he said.

“I know that they don’t have a lot of height, which is a very big plus for us, because we have height,” Stepanian said. “I know that their point guard (Jasmine Williams) is fairly good, which we’re going to focus on.”

Stepanian is undoubtedly the key to CV’s success. She averaged 13 points a game in league, including a 22-point effort against Arcadia on Jan. 20. She is only a sophomore, and said her role this season has changed somewhat.

“I think my role on the team [last year] was to be the defensive player,” she said. “This year I’m more of an offensive player. I still consider myself a defensive player but I think I’ve developed more of my offensive skills.”

Stepanian, center Samira Seraji and point guard Catherine Davis are what drive CV offensively, although at times Perez said they looked inept at scoring the ball. It was the Falcons’ defense all season that kept them alive for the playoff spot.

“Our defense had been good all year, but I think we started taking our defense and turning it a little bit more into offense,” said Perez. “We ran our offense much better [later in the season]. We were able to get open shots, open looks, and we made more. That was a big deal; we went through a stretch in league where we couldn’t score.”

The playoffs don’t have patience to sort out a team’s inconsistencies, though. CV has to win on Saturday or start thinking about next year.