LA CRESCENTA — One of the worst quarters of its season ended up playing a big part in ending its season.
The Crescenta Valley High girls’ basketball team took a five-point lead into the third quarter of its CIF Southern Section Division I-AA first-round playoff game against visiting Los Alamitos on Saturday night. Then, in just a few minutes, the Falcons’ lost their lead and control of the game.
“We had five points and 12 turnovers,” Falcon Coach Jason Perez said. “That’s how you lose basketball games.”
Crescenta Valley (20-9), which finished second in the Pacific League, lost its lead after committing six turnovers in the opening five minutes of the second half. The Falcons didn’t score until Ella Stepanian hit a runner with 2:30 remaining in the quarter, when Los Alamitos already had a 29-24 advantage.
Los Alamitos, which made seven shots in the first half, sank six shots in the third quarter, including three from three-point territory. Los Alamitos finished eight of 25 on three-point attempts.
“We did not go with the game plan,” said Perez, whose team was two of 17 from three-point territory. “The game plan was to cover the shooters, and we didn’t.
“We had a lot of opportunities to come back and we didn’t take advantage. They made their shots from the field when they needed to and we didn’t. They shot better.”
One of the critical shots that Los Alamitos (17-9) hit was a risky one that gave Coach Craig Impleman’s squad a comfortable lead.
With Los Alamitos holding a 42-40 advantage with just over a minute to play, it attempted a shot as the shot clock was a second from expiring. But Los Alamitos’ Bayley Hagino gathered the rebound off a miss, and found teammate Dani Iwami open on the left wing. Instead of wasting more time, Iwami took a step back and drained a three-pointer for a 45-40 lead with 57 seconds to play.
“She’s a great clutch player,” Impleman said of Iwami, who had a game-high 15 points. “She puts a lot of time on her shooting. Every time she shoots it, I think it is going to go in.”
Los Alamitos knew that to win, it had to limit the Falcons’ opportunities, especially those from Stepanian.
Stepanian, a former All-Pacific League, struggled from the field, scoring 11 points.
“She was the focus,” Impleman said. “We wanted everybody on defense to help on her.”
Stepanian added five assists, most to Alisa Shinn, who had 12 points. Tanisha Minassian added eight points for the Falcons, who’ll lose seven players to graduation, notably Stepanian.
“Ella is one of the best players I have ever coached,” Perez said. “She has always gave it her all. She does everything for us. She’s been our leader in steals. She’s been our leader in assists. Most of the time, she’s been the leader in points.
“You can’t replace a player like that.”