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Even without star, Glendale women's team poised for gold

Basketball: Despite loss of Kepenekian, Homenetmen Ararat expect to win Pan-Armenian Games.

August 12, 2011|By Edgar Melik-Stepanyan, Special to the News-Press

GLENDALE — The frustrations still remain, the agony lingers and the letdown is fresh in their minds.

Four years ago, the Glendale women's basketball team, representing the Homenetmen Ararat Chapter, lost in the championship game of the fourth Pan-Armenian Games in Yerevan, Armenia.

Four years later, two members of that team, Melia Basavand and Aileen Vartanian, are on a path to release their frustrations and prove themselves against the best that the Armenian community has to offer.

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The returning duo will join a bevy of local athletes who will vie for gold when the fifth Pan-Armenian Games begin today in Yerevan.

The Glendale women's team includes 2010 Crescenta Valley High graduates Ani Ebrahamian and Melanie Samvelian, in addition to Glendale High's Anna Shahinian (class of 2009) and CV sophomore Ella Stepanian.

But Coach Menooa Aboolian's team doesn't include arguably the best player in the Homenetmen Glendale Ararat chapter.

Glendale will be without Christine Kepenekian, a Burbank High graduate and former member of the Ararat Women's Basketball team. Kepenekian tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during the annual Homenetmen Navasartian Games on July 2 and will miss the Pan-Armenian Games.

"It was really devastating," Kepenekian said. "We had been practicing and fundraising a lot. Four years ago, we didn't fundraise and practice as much. We were a closer team and more talented. I knew this time around was our best chance. It's pretty devastating."

Not only did Glendale lose its top player in Kepenekian — who played for Hatis Yerevan, the top women's professional basketball team in Armenia last year — but it also lost one of the best athletes in the tournament.

"She made everybody better," said Basavand, a 2007 Glendale High graduate who recently completed her career at the University of Albany. "Our offense revolved around her.

"But I don't want people to think that it's not possible to win without her."

Kepenekian said her teammates should win the championship.

"[My injury] doesn't kill their chances at all," said Kepenekian, who had knee surgery on July 14 and won't make the trip to Armenia. "I'm just one player. It would be a disappointment to not win the gold because we have so much talent on that team."

Aboolian and the rest of his athletes believe a return trip to the championship game is within reach.

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