Falcons Grind Out Win in League-Opener

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Photos by Brandon HENSLEY With about a minute and a half left on the clock, Falcon Koko Kechichian had one of the biggest plays of the game against Burroughs when he crossed over Indian Tristen Hull to maneuver a layup.

Photos by Brandon HENSLEY
With about a minute and a half left on the clock, Falcon Koko Kechichian had one of the biggest plays of the game against Burroughs when he crossed over Indian Tristen Hull to maneuver a layup.

By Brandon HENSLEY

With every rough play, Adam Hochberg and his staff threw their hands up, more incredulous with every new non-call than the last one. The crowd behind them wasn’t too pleased, either. Burroughs High School had its supporters come to the Crescenta Valley High gym and voice displeasure over the way the officials called the boys’ basketball Pacific League-opening tilt Tuesday night, but it was a double-whammy for the Indians: Hochberg was hit with a technical foul late in the game, and his team went down to the Falcons 61-50.

The Indians (10-3, 0-1 in league) rallied from a 21-point deficit in the third quarter, cutting CV’s lead to four points with less than two minutes to go, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

“I feel like our game plan was a solid game plan. We were not locked into it in the beginning,” Hochberg said.

After an awful stretch opening the third quarter, in which the Falcons outscored them 12-1 to hold a 39-18 lead, the Indians pressured the Falcons into turnovers, which turned into points for them.

But Crescenta Valley, which sometimes frustrates its coach Shawn Zargarian with stretches of complacency, answered the call and composed itself long enough to make the right plays when needed. On one press break, Chris Reik moved the ball to Gabe Ajemian on the wing, and Ajemian swooped in for an impressive layup over his defender.

In perhaps the biggest play of the game, Koko Kechichian had the ball up top with the shot clock running down. The Falcons (11-3, 1-0) were only up 52-48 with about a minute and a half left in regulation. Kechichian was matched up against the bigger, longer Tristen Hull, but Kechichian showed his skill. Starting from the left side, he crossed Hull over and eventually maneuvered in a layup on the right side.

Arin Ovanessian, who had 15 points, scored on a coast-to-coast layup moments later, and the game belonged to CV.

“He’s a stud,” Falcons’ Coach Shawn Zargarian said of Kechichian, who had eight points and four assists in the second half. “He can defend, he’s strong, he rebounds, he can get to the basket, he can shoot and he doesn’t get rattled.”

That’s a nice list of attributes for the junior guard, but he’s not the only one who does multiple things for a Falcon team that has its eyes on winning a league title. CV is coming off a first place finish in the D1 Bound Southern California Christmas Classic, held last month at both St. Francis and Cathedral high schools. It was there that the main trio of Tadeh Tarverdians, Ovanessian and Ajemian shined.

Tarverdians racked up eight assists in the first game on Dec. 26, showing great vision within a half-court offense to get teammates good looks. The next game he tallied eight points and four assists. Ajemian had 18 points in the first game and in the championship game vs. Millikan he scored 19 points with five rebounds and two blocks. Ovanessian, who was named tournament MVP, had 31 points in a Game 2 win over Bernstein and had 11 points and four assists in the championship game.

Both the Falcons and Indians are contenders for winning league. Perennial champion Pasadena had an average preseason (6-6), and it seems like the Bulldogs, CV and Burroughs, along with Burbank (10-5) and Glendale (7-6) have an equal shot this season. The Falcons were co-champions with Pasadena in 2014, their first league title since 2004.

Crescenta Valley doesn’t play Burroughs again until Jan. 26 at Burroughs, a place where it looked uncomfortable the last two years. The Falcons lost by two points there in 2014, and were dominated last season there 73-53, another contest between the teams where tensions rose. Like Hochberg this week, it was Zargarian who was assessed a technical foul in that game for being upset at the referees, all the while the crowds for both sides were upset not only at how the game was being called, but also how players on each side were either being too showy or too physical – or both.

Because both teams are good, it’s likely the atmosphere will be the same then as it has been.

“To be honest I feel we’re the better team this year,” Hochberg said. “They’re very solid, they’re one of the top teams in league, but I think we are stronger overall.”

Before the rematch, though, the Falcons must contend with Burbank, which they host Friday at 7 p.m., before hitting the road to Pasadena on Monday at 5 p.m.

Arin Ovanessian

Arin Ovanessian

Gabe Ajemian

Gabe Ajemian

Journey Shank

Journey Shank

Kudzai Kachingwe

Kudzai Kachingwe

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