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Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's Melene Agakanian (21) fights for the rebound. (Libby Cline, Glendale News Press / November 19, 2012)

Often times, there's an elongated time frame with players adjusting to a new coach. That doesn't figure to be the case for the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy basketball team this season.

When Gino Pacella resigned his coaching post after guiding the Tologs to their fourth straight playoff appearance last season, the Tologs wasted little time in promoting assistant Ty Buxman to the lead role. Buxman served as Pacella's assistant the past four seasons and played a role in cultivating talent at the junior varsity level so it would be ready to compete on the varsity stage.

Buxman said he's eager to see how things work out for the Tologs.

"The transition has been a good one since we got going last summer," Buxman said. "We've all been getting used to each other, and they are starting to respond.

"We will be young, but, at the same time, that can be a good thing. We are trying to see who can step up and be a full-time varsity player. It's intriguing and exciting."

With the loss of center Lana Haddad, an All-Area second-team pick, to graduation, there's plenty of opportunities for the current cast to grab the baton in attempting to lead the Tologs to another playoff spot while also participating in the ultra-competitive Mission League that's expected to again boast a potent gauntlet of strong squads.

The most logical choice might be senior guard Dana Budzyn, the lone returning starter and a reigning All-Mission League second-team honoree who averaged 6.7 points, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game last season.

"She's going to be a four-year varsity starter," Buxman said. "She's been a real solid and consistent player since she's been here, so we are going to need for her to step up and be a scorer."

Crescenta Valley would be happy just to field a healthy team. That doesn't figure to be in the cards, as the Falcons will in all likelihood be without starting junior guard Ella Stepanian for the season.

Stepanian, a reigning All-Pacific League pick, tore her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus early in the summer. Stepanian hurt her knee and suffered an elbow injury June 30 while competing in an Ararat Homenetmen game. She averaged 14.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game for the Falcons last season.

After learning about Stepanian's injury, Crescenta Valley Coach Jason Perez began making a new set of plans in remodeling the team.

"It's a tough loss because she's led in every category the last two seasons," said Perez, who led the Falcons to a playoff appearance last season. "When you lose a player like that, you have to go about drawing up new plans."

Perez said it wasn't clear if two other starters — senior guard Grace Trueblood and junior forward Lindsey Heckmann — would suit up this season. Trueblood and Heckmann are recovering from knee and back injuries, respectively.

The Falcons will turn to junior guards Tanisha Minasian and Jackie Wilson, senior guard Sydney Cummings and junior forward Emily Beglarian to help soften the blow and fill some of the void left by Stepanian, Trueblood and Heckmann.

Glendale will feature its share of varsity experience. The Nitros, who didn't qualify for the postseason last season, will carry a 12-member squad that will include eight seniors.

It's given Glendale Coach Tania Adary reason for hope that the Nitros will be among the teams in the upper half of the Pacific League and also contending for a playoff berth.

"We have a lot of experience, and all of them have started at some point before," Adary said. "For us to be successful, we are going to have to be strong in defending and using our speed."

Glendale's top players will probably consist of senior guards Kris Zadourian, Tara Abdul-Ahad, Lala Karimian and Ellin Avanesian and senior forward Erlin Kezhishzadeh.

Flintridge Prep will begin a new era, as coach Todd Frost resigned following 13 years with the program. Frost spent the last three seasons as head coach after previously serving as an assistant from 1999-2009 under Kenny Fisher.

Flintridge Prep, which reached the playoffs last season, will now have a pair of coaches roaming the sidelines in Kevin Kiyomura and Jayme Kiyomura-Chan. The duo ran the team during the summer, providing the players with a glimpse of what they expect to accomplish.