Falcons, Nitros Hope For Playoff Return

First published in the Dec. 4 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

Girls’ high school basketball has returned in a more recognizable form than last season, and now simple things that might have been taken for granted have added meaning.
“This is as normal as we are going to get for a while, I believe,” Glendale High School coach Tadeh Mardirosian said. “I’m excited for this season. I think so is everybody else. Everybody walks into the gym with a little bit of an extra smile on their faces.”

CRESCENTA VALLEY FALCONS

At Crescenta Valley High, there is a new girls’ basketball head coach, but easing the transition is a familiar face: Michael Flot, who has been on the coaching staff for the past several years, has been elevated to the top job.
“I believe with the girls, it’s a community. I want everyone to get involved,” said Flot, who is a first-time head coach for the Falcons. “I think that’s a little bit of change that they’re not used to: everyone being involved. Let the players be involved. Let the assistant coaches be involved. [I’m] just trying to get everyone involved.”
Flot’s approach is straightforward.
“The goal each and every day is for the girls to get better. As the individual gets better, the team gets better,” Flot said.
This concept can be boiled down further into words that the Falcons, who reached the first round of the playoffs last season, will strive to live by this season.
“We always say, ‘Better together, work hard [and] get your teammate better,’” Flot said.
The Falcons will depend on their defense and will be mixing things up on that end of the floor.
“Defense is our strength —playing defense together,” Flot said. “We’re going to be running some man. We’ll mix it up with some zone with some trapping. [We’ll run] various defenses.” There are 15 players on the Falcons’ roster this season, including four seniors. Along with Victoria Prochazka, sophomore Kylie Ray will play a significant role.
“[Ray] is improving and works really hard each and every day,” Flot said. “She wants to play next-level basketball, so she does put in the work.”
Crescenta Valley finished in third in the Pacific League last season, but scheduling in league is different this year, when squads will be separated into two tiers halfway through the season based on the team’s record.
“There is competition throughout the whole league,” Flot said. “I’m just excited for everyone to play hard and roll out the dice and the best team wins.”

GLENDALE NITROS

Photo by Eric Danielson / Glendale News-Press
Sarah Kaloghlian is one of two senior captains for the girls’ basketball team who aims to get the Nitros back into CIF playoffs this season.

For the first time in the seven-season tenure of Nitros’ coach Mardirosian, his Glendale High School team has a slogan.
“This year we have a saying — it’s ‘Together.’ It’s on our shooting shirts. It’s on shirts. It’s on our warmups. ‘Together’ because this group of girls has really pulled together since the middle of the pandemic,” Mardirosian said. “None of them can be successful without their teammates. So ‘Together’ is our slogan and we carry that everywhere with us.”
The Nitros have a short roster and players that might lack size, but nonetheless they are hard at work, he said.
“We have nine ladies in the program and I am carrying three sophomores and two juniors, so it’s a relatively younger group of girls,” Mardirosian said. “They just work [hard]. I mean, I feel like work is in their DNA … It’s one collective hard-working unit.”
The captains are seniors Sarine Kaloghlian and Cherilyn Legaspi, who is in line to be the key Nitro on the court this season.
“[Legaspi] is our leading scorer and spearheads the energy on the defensive side,” Mardirosian said.
The Nitros got an infusion of international talent last season in Jane Basil, who has come from Lebanon. The junior has a high level of athleticism and will play a larger role this campaign, forming a one-two punch with Legaspi.
Last season, Glendale reached the CIF-Southern Section Division IIA playoffs and notched a victory in the first round.
“The No. 1 goal is to make it to the playoffs,” Mardirosian said. “The key is to make it to the playoffs and get into our Division IIA and make a little run.”

HOOVER TORNADOS

Photo by Sebastian Moore / Glendale News-Press
Girls’ basketball head coach Stan Watson says he sees a lot of himself in captain Lana Tolmajian (purple jersey, center), who is one of four seniors that the Hoover High School Tornados boast on their roster.

Not only do the Tornados have a slogan for this season, they also have a theme song.
“Our senior, Paola Gorgeiz, if you ever watch her at the free throw line, she literally taps her feet. It’s the funniest thing. It’s actually kind of charming,” Hoover coach Stan Watson said. “So we developed a little saying: ‘Shake it off. Take a chance.’ So that is what we do. The theme song is ‘Tap In’ by Saweetie.”
The Tornados’ 10-player roster is composed of four seniors and the remainder are underclassmen. Watson reports they are a group that stays together and are “excelling in the weight room.”
“I have four seniors on the team that have been in the program since they were freshmen, but they were only on junior varsity up to last year,” said Watson, who is in his 12th season. “I have five freshmen that literally just walked in … then I have one sophomore.”
The captains are Gorgeiz, who is a potent shot blocker, and senior Lana Tolmajian, who Watson says “is literally me on the court.” Senior Emily Gharibian is a “very good” shooter with the nickname “Silk” who Watson wants to fire away. Freshman Aline Melconian will be starting along with the seniors.
Hoover is operating without any assistant coaches and, consequently, the Tornados are only fielding a varsity team.
“We always want to be competitive. Our main goal is to be competitive,” Watson said.