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Pair of locals bring back Pan-Armenian gold

Basketball: Two local grads aid L.A.'s championship win

Glendale chapter takes third in Armenia.

August 29, 2011|By Edgar Melik-Stepanyan, Special to the News-Press

A pair of local men's basketball players returned from Armenia with gold medals won at the fifth annual Pan-Armenian Games in the country's capital of Yerevan.

The duo just happened to play for a team from Los Angeles instead of the one from Glendale that was highlighted by former standouts from Hoover and Glendale highs.

Glendale High graduates Vahram Amayakyan and Artin Adjamian each played supporting roles in helping Los Angeles defeat Sochi, Russia, 93-86, on Aug. 21 in the championship game of the Pan-Armenian Games.

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"It was by far the best experience of my life as far as basketball goes," said Amayakyan, who graduated with Adjamian from Glendale in 1999.

Sochi ruined the championship aspirations of Glendale a day earlier, defeating Fred Babadjanians' team, 87-82, in overtime. Glendale — representing the Homenetmen Ararat chapter — defeated Tehran, 91-87, in the third-place game.

"I think finishing in third place means a lot more to the rest of the world than to us," said Babadjanians, whose team lost to Sochi in the championship contest of the 2007 games. "Everybody keeps congratulating us for third place, and I question why we're being congratulated. In the grand scheme of things, I guess it's better to finish in third place than not any place."

Babadjanians waited after the bronze-medal game and watched Los Angeles' Mike Danielian, a Grant High graduate who is a sophomore at Cal State Fullerton, exhibit his skills against Sochi. Danielian scored 49 points to give Los Angeles its first title and its Coach Carl Bardakian his third title as a player and coach in the Pan-Armenian Games.

"I kept telling the guys that the championship goes through Sochi," said Bardakian, who is America's representative for the Basketball Federation of Armenia and was also assisted by Zorik Isajane, an assistant men's basketball coach at Glendale Community College.

"We knew it would be tough. We felt we prepared hard. We were in a great position to challenge for the title. We had a deeper bench, more experience and we were physically and mentally ready to handle Sochi's run throughout the game.

"It took a great team effort to win the championship."

Glendale and Los Angeles were presented their medals by Armenia President Serzh Sargsyan, a moment both coaches said they'll never forget.

"Having the president be there, it's something I'll remember the rest of my life," Amayakyan said.

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