Dons Blaze Past Sylmar for a Second Time This Season in Home Opener at Verdugo Hills

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The Verdugo HIlls Dons defeated the Sylmar Spartans in their home opener tonight 60-39. The Dons offense was moving like a well oiled machine, finding cutters and driving to the basket. Two weeks ago, the Dons defeated Sylmar narrowly 66-62. Various Dons basketball alums were there to see their old team for the first game this season on the home court.

It was a physical defensive game from the start, as Power Forward Adrian Mirzakani and fellow big man Georges Abdulnour scored early in the first quarter. The Dons came out in man defense, but soon trailed 8-4. David Marcos came in halfway through the quarter, scoring six points to take the Dons into the first quarter break down 10-14.

One minute into the second quarter, the Dons went into their 2-3 zone defense. From that point on, Sylmar struggled. The length of the Verdugo Hills’ players was important tonight, with their long arms deflecting passes. In the 2-3 zone, they organized into a canopy-like defense, creating a shifting mass of defenders, and locking down the paint. It became evident that the refs were letting both teams play. Dons Coach Jared Gibson noted in a post-game interview, “Teams like that, they’re going to foul constantly, because they know the refs aren’t going to call the fouls constantly. So they get away with a lot. Sometimes it takes the guys a little while to adjust to that kind of defense.” And adjust they did, absorbing contact and breaking through double teams to find the unguarded teammate for an open shot. Not having Marcos “for the first five games, it let the younger guys get a lot more playing time so they’re more comfortable,” said Gibson. This was seen in younger players like sophomore second-string point guard Garik Yepremyan, who hit a last second three-pointer from the corner to put the Dons up 24-19 going into halftime.

Coach Gibson said, “I told them at halftime: How many turnovers do we have? Way more than them. How many rebounds do they have? Way more than us. They’re winning the possession battle. We need to win the possession battle. We focused on those points in the second half, and there you go.”

Forward Arlen Tomasien scored 10 points in the third quarter, often from assists from Marcos. The Dons began to pull away from Sylmar. They relied less on the three-pointer as they did on finding cutters out of their motion offense, leading to many open lay-ups in the paint. The Spartans continued to play tough defense, and swarmed the Dons, often double-teaming. At the end of the third quarter, Verdugo Hills led 43-31.

Sylmar kept up the pressure to start the fourth quarter, making a run largely driven by Sylmar’s backcourt. Dons Forward Erik Yepremyan hit a clutch three-pointer from the corner to take back the momentum, and from that point on, the Dons began to pull away even further. Marcos and Tomasien scored the last nine points to seal the 60-39 victory.

Verdugo Hills Guard Alan Hernandez remains sidelined. His absence is still felt in the backcourt, but the Dons seem to be doing well filling in his spot, with Erik Yepremyan--who started the year playing the 4-spot--stepping up and showing his versatility. The Dons play next on Wednesday December 8 when they host the Grant Lancers at 4:00 pm.

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