Glendale Adventist basketball

Glendale Adventist Academy's Audrey Tran and Irene Martinez are hoping the Cougars can upend Shalhevet in Saturday's semifinal to advance to the CIF-SS Division VI championship game. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

It might come as a surprise to some that the Glendale Adventist Academy girls’ basketball team has advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division VI semifinal contest.

Don’t count the members of the team among that group, even after a sixth-place finish in the Liberty League. It’s a revitalized Glendale Adventist squad that’s now picking up the pace on both ends of the court.

Thirteenth-seeded Glendale Adventist will brace for its next test when it travels to meet ninth-seeded Shalhevet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a semifinal game at Westside Community Jewish Center in Los Angeles.

“Has it sunk in yet that we are in the semifinals? Not really,” said Glendale Adventist Coach Joseph Naguit, whose team is 8-7. “We’ve been doing a lot of things well throughout the playoffs and we want to keep it going because this has been something exciting for the school.

“We know we will have another tough game ahead of us with Shalhevet. We just have to continue to stay focused. We have to stay disciplined and play real good defense.”

Glendale Adventist senior forward Madison Federici said the Cougars, who received an at-large berth, have completely regrouped since the conclusion of the regular season.

“Getting to the semifinals has been a dream come true,” said Federici, who finished with a team-high 14 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and two blocks to help Glendale Adventist post a 40-34 quarterfinal win against 12th-seeded St. Monica Academy on Thursday. “We know we have to keep pushing harder.

“We know Shalhevet has a good team, but we have faith in our team. We want to keep playing.”

The Cougars and Firehawks (18-3) have both enjoyed their share of success throughout the playoffs, with both teams having eliminated some of the division’s top squads.

Glendale Adventist opened the postseason with a 38-17 road win against unseeded Packinghouse Christian before posting a 40-25 second-round victory against fourth-seeded Hemet Baptist Christian and then dispatching St. Monica Academy.

Shalhevet, a freelance team, began the playoffs with a 51-18 win against unseeded Coast Union and then registered a 50-32 victory in the second round against eighth-seeded Riverside Christian. The Firehawks then posted the biggest upset Wednesday with a 50-45 road win against top-seeded Hesperia Christian.

Like Glendale Adventist, Shalhevet fourth-year Coach Ronnie Winbush said the Firehawks are brimming with confidence.

“We’ve gone on the road for two long trips to Coast Union and Hesperia Christian and treated them just like business trips,” Winbush said. “It was amazing to beat Hesperia Christian.

“Now, we get another tough matchup going against Glendale Adventist. We are going to have to step it up even more on defense and make better decisions with the ball.”

The Cougars have been receiving steady efforts throughout the postseason from guards Isabella Naguit and Brittney Gregg and forward Harley Federici.

The Firehawks have been led by guard/forward Sigal Spitzer and guard Joelle Edry. Spitzer and Edry are averaging about 16 and eight points per game, respectively.

The other semifinal game Saturday will match second-seeded Santa Maria Valley Christian (19-3) against sixth-seeded Joshua Springs (18-7). The championship game will likely be played Friday or March 8 at a site to be determined.