PASADENA — In the playoffs, there is no extra credit for style. It is simply win and advance, and this was a truism personified for host Armenian General Benevolent Union in its girls' basketball CIF-Southern Section Division VA wild-card against Sage Hill Thursday night. The Spartans grinded their way to a 46-33 win over the Lightning in a contest that lacked much excellence of execution on any level.
“I think this victory was very sloppy,” AGBU Coach Sam Mackall said. “We’ve played much better basketball out there with the girls, but they still found a way to win and that’s more important than anything.”
AGBU (7-8-1) built its lead in each quarter on the way to a convincing victory, but it was not pretty. Both teams struggled with ball security, as well as making shots. In addition, the referees allowed the game to be very physical, which led to a frenetic pace but limited offense.
“I want to throw this one in the trash and get on to the next game,” Mackall said.
The Spartans, the No. 3 entry from the Westside League, were led by senior Nanor Babaian, who scored a game-high 23 points, despite struggling from beyond the arc. Babaian hit her first two three-point shots of the game in the first quarter, when the home team started three of four on three-point attempts. However, after that, AGBU did not make another from long distance.
In the second quarter, AGBU fired at will from beyond the three-point line but came up empty, going 0-11. This included 0-6 from Babaian, who was limited to two free throws made in the quarter for eight points at the break. Luckily for the Spartans, the Lightning’s shooting was equally bad from any place on the court. In the second quarter, Sage Hill (8-12), an at-large entry from the Academy League, scored just seven points and on three separate possessions managed to miss three or more shot attempts. The Spartans led, 21-17, at the break.
“We had a talk just before halftime,” Mackall said of Babaian. “I was telling her it’s not about how many three-pointers you can shoot, but when you get to the basket and finish and get to the free-throw line, you find your shots.”
The second half was equally sloppy for both teams, but AGBU stopped heaving it from long distance and instead looked to drive the ball. This was especially true for Babaian, who despite her shooting trouble stayed aggressive. She hit two short jumpers early and then got the rest of her points in the paint as she looked to drive the ball and create opportunities off the dribble. Babaian had six points in the third quarter and nine in the final frame, equaling the Lightning’s output in the quarter.
“When [Babaian] started [driving] and scoring a lot more, she opened it up for the rest of the team,” Mackall said.
Sage Hill got the bulk of its offense from senior front court player Maggie Danner, who had 11 points and 13 rebounds. However, all of Danner’s points came in the first half, after which the Spartans made a defensive adjustment, forcing her to bring the ball up the court and limiting her scoring chances.
AGBU’s next game will be a first-round match-up on Saturday at the Academy for Academic Excellence, the division’s No. 5 seed. It will be a rematch of last year’s second round, which the Spartans, who have since lost four seniors, won in a blowout.
“I’m expecting [AAE] to seek revenge,” Mackall said.