Falcons get much improved play from Christian Misi, which propels them past El Toro in quarterfinals
By Brandon HENSLEY
It was clear from the opening tip Christian Misi was on a mission to finally establish himself in these CIF playoffs. The Falcons had been able to advance in the Southern Section Divison 1A postseason in large part because of the play of their guards Cole Currie and Dylan Kilgour, and the aggressive style of forward Davis Dragovich.
But Friday night at CV, with a trip to the semifinals at stake, Misi showed why he was All-CIF last year, and why Falcons PA announcer Jim Smiley keeps referring to him as “Beast.”
CV beat El Toro 61-49 Friday night behind Misi’s 15 points and 10 rebounds, and really, the stats didn’t do his play justice. He was everywhere, aggressively pulling down rebounds when his shot wasn’t falling early. His shot eventually started to go down in the second half when his team needed to shake off a comeback effort by the Chargers.
“I just wasn’t myself [before] and this game I was [approaching it] like it was another game,” said Misi, who only scored six points in a win at Warren Tuesday. “I came in calm and composed, had a little more energy.”
It seemed like Coach Shawn Zargarian was waiting for this type of game from Misi all week.
“Christian had a rough game in the first round,” Zargarian said. “We said, ‘Christian you gotta snap out of it and get ready for the second round.’ Then he had a tough one in the second round, and he actually looked a lot more focused [tonight]. If you watched him at practice yesterday it looked like he had a hop in his step. He was fired up.”
The Falcons (26-4) will play at Mission Viejo (26-3) on Tuesday for a trip to the CIF Southern Section Finals. However, their win Friday assured them of an entry into the state playoffs, so even a loss to Mission Viejo wouldn’t end their season. If that were to happen, CV’s opponent as well as the date would be determined later.
The Falcons basketball program last made this far in 1994, when they reached the CIF Finals at the Pond in Anaheim.
Against El Toro, every run the Falcons made seemed to be answered. A Dragovich 3-pointer made it 19-11 in the second quarter, but the Chargers answered with back door cuts to their guards and the strong inside presence of center Jordan Faison (18 points overall).
Misi said guarding Faison was a tough test.
“Once he got the ball above his head it was pretty hard for me to stop him,” he said. “It was either a foul or a bucket, so I had a lot of help from my team, and I did what could.”
CV had 25-19 halftime lead, but El Toro pushed ahead 30-29 in the third. The Falcons immediately grabbed back momentum with 3-pointers by Tade Keshishyan and Currie, firing up the packed gym.
“They did make a run, but it wasn’t a huge run. It was enough to get them a one-point lead … but we had so many guys step up offensively,” said Zargarian. Currie had 14 points, Dragovich had 13 and Keshishyan had 10, which helped offset a scoreless night by guard Dylan Kilgour.
Despite Kilgour’s offensive struggles, Zargarian praised his efforts guarding El Toro’s Cody White. Zargarian said before the game CV would have to watch out for his outside shooting. White struggled early, then briefly found his touch. He scored 15 points, but didn’t register a field goal in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a drive-first, shoot-second guy,” Zargarian said of White. “He did get some open looks and we were fortunate that he was not hitting his 3-pointers tonight.”
Currie effectively ended the game late in the third. His back-to-back 3-pointers pushed the Falcons lead to 42-35. In the fourth, CV was able to keep a double lead the last half of the fourth quarter. Now it’s on to bigger, but harder, things.
“They have a couple of football-basketball guys who are very physical,” Zargarian said of Mission Viejo. “I am so happy for our guys to experience this … we keep telling them we don’t want this to end.”