By Brandon HENSLEY
For the first time in years, the Pacific League in varsity boys’ basketball is about as stable as California’s fault lines. There are no more sure things about this league, like how Crescenta Valley, Muir and Pasadena usually give each other its only losses.
The Falcons already have three losses, Muir was beaten by Glendale and Pasadena fell to Hoover – and we’re not even halfway through the schedule.
The Falcons were supposed to have senior point guard and leader Berj Krikorian on the floor to guide a young and inexperienced team to the playoffs.
Whoops again. He sprained his ankle in the first quarter of the second league game and hasn’t played since.
It seems like every team in league is lacking in height this year, and that includes the Falcons, who graduated co-league MVP Eric Patten last year. At least they were going to have 6’2” football star Connor Van Ginkel back for much-needed interior toughness.
Nope. He left the team in the pre-season to focus on football opportunities.
These days, the only sure thing for Crescenta Valley is the play of Arin Ovanessian. The junior forward is making the most of his opportunity to shine with solid all-around play. Ovanessian scored a career-high 35 points on Tuesday as the Falcons beat Glendale 79-66. The Falcons improved to 3-3 in league, and Glendale, perhaps a surprise team, dropped to 4-2.
Ovanessian collected five rebounds as well, but most impressive was his offensive output. He scored 22 points in the second half, and for the game he converted all 17 of his free throw attempts.
“I practice them so much,” he said of his foul shots. “Everyday. As many free throws as I can.”
Ovanessian was called up to the varsity last year in the second game of league. He hit a crucial 3-pointer against Muir in the last minute that helped beat the Mustangs, and since then he’s only improved. While last year’s team featured leaders such as Patten, Eric Bae and Krikorian, only Krikorian remains, and he’s mostly a distributor. Ovanessian is now the guy the team looks to the most when it needs a big basket.
“It is crazy … coming up trying to fill my role, do what I can do,” he said. “This year I’ve progressed a lot. I’m trying to get my shots, get my teammates involved, get us going.”
“I know tonight is 35. That’s a pretty big number but he’s been doing a good job of scoring 15-plus [points] a night for us consistently,” said Coach Shawn Zargarian.
CV led 38-31 at the half. Glendale’s Raffi Jivalgian scored eight of his 20 points in the third quarter, but Ovanessian matched him with eight of his own, including two 3-pointers. Falcons’ guard Kyle Currie (nine points) got into foul trouble, and Glendale backed off of point guard Tadeh Taverdian, who has been playing that role in Krikorian’s absence. He missed several midrange shots when the Nitros practically dared him to shoot, but in the fourth he and Ovanessian each hit big 3-pointers to put the game away.
Zargarian said his coaching staff thinks those two take the biggest shots when they’re needed, and that they never shy away from the moment.
“It’s that 3-point ball. It either kills you or saves you. Tonight it saved us,” said Zargarian, while adding he’s trying to get his team to shoot less from beyond the arc during league. He said the Falcons shot around 25 to 30 threes in December, and that number needs to come down.
Forward Chris Reik had another good game, scoring seven points to go with six rebounds. He scored 14 points in a Jan. 16 win over Hoover.
“The biggest things he does for us is rebound the ball really well and gives us interior toughness,” Zargarian said of Reik. “He’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s very competitive. As far as his rebounding, post defense and his ability to stretch the floor and knock down shots, he really helps.”
The Falcons will take anything they can get while Krikorian is still out. CV’s next game is Friday at Arcadia High School at 7 p.m. Zargarian said that game is the goal for Krikorian’s return.
“He’s just not ready. He’s not explosive,” he said. “I hope Friday.”
As a team, the Falcons took 27 free throws and made 24. Glendale wasn’t bad either, making 19 of 26 attempts.
In the Falcons’ three league wins, they’ve scored 69 points or more. In their three losses, they’ve haven’t scored more than 56 points.
Crescenta Valley has three losses in league so far. The team hasn’t lost more than that since 2010, when it went 8-4.
Junior forward Gabriel Amejian is probably the best looking athlete on the team, though he lacks polish with his outside shot and ability to finish down low against bigger players. But his skill was on display in the second half when he caught a pass from Journey Shank in the corner. He faked out his defender and drove baseline, took two steps and rose up with one hand over two Nitro players, softly banking the ball off the glass for two points. It was the prettiest play of the day, and this time next year he could be a force to be reckoned with.