Both Falcons and Mustangs are lights-out in the third quarter, but CV pulls away for fourth straight win.
By Brandon HENSLEY
They’re feeling much better about themselves these days. You couldn’t tell where exactly the season was going when the Crescenta Valley boys’ basketball team started the Pacific League season 0-2, then 1-3.
It wasn’t pretty. Blown leads, last-second losses, an injury that kept starting point guard Berj Krikorian out for a couple of weeks. It was all part of a season that had the defending co-league champion Falcons on the ropes, and it wasn’t even the halfway point of the season.
But after the Falcons’ 74-65 win over Muir on Tuesday, players were in the mood to have some fun. After Krikorian was interviewed, Tadeh Taverdians asked him if he said he would start passing the ball to him. Journey Shank came by waving peace signs with a smile behind Kyle Currie when he was answering questions.
That’s what winning will do for a team. Krikorian returned to the lineup for the first time since spraining his ankle on Jan. 9 at Burroughs. He’s back, and the Falcons have won four in a row and five of their six games. The last game they lost was two weeks ago, when they blew a nine-point fourth quarter lead to Pasadena, but Coach Shawn Zargarian wasn’t unhappy with how his team played that night, and he’s certainly not upset at the results that have followed.
“I think we’re starting to play with an overall confidence,” he said. “I think we’re starting to understand what we’ve been telling them for the past month, that we’re capable of being one of the best teams in league. It’s hard for them to realize that considering how we started.”
Tuesday’s home game against the Mustangs must have felt good. In the league opener on Jan. 7, Muir’s Jeremy Hayes banked in the winning shot with two seconds left and CV lost 46-44. In this game, Hayes was good (17 points) but a strong second quarter helped the Falcons take a 31-24 lead at halftime.
“We knew right off the bat that they were going to hit. We had to hit back,” Currie said. “Once we get settled in, everyone gets used to it and we can start running our stuff.”
Currie scored 21 points, including 13 in the second half.
“[I] always continue shooting, even if I miss,” he said. “You have to have confidence when you shoot. I got a lot of looks in the second half.”
Both teams made the most of their looks in the third quarter. Muir was an astounding 11 of 12 from the field, and CV (5-3, third place in league) was impressive as well, hitting nine of 13 shots. Falcon forward Arin Ovanessian, who had a team high six rebounds, had 10 points in the frame to keep the lead for his team. Muir trailed by just two points heading into the fourth quarter.
“Thank goodness we started hitting shots because that could have gotten really ugly really fast,” Zargarian said.
After CV held on to win, Zargarian acknowledged the play of sophomore center David Heckmann, who has a workman-like quality about him in the same vein as 2013 graduate Elliot Wilson, a member of two varsity CIF semifinal teams.
“He really understands the game, and our schemes in every game. In the film room, in practice, you can tell he’s engaged so we feel very confident we can put him in,” he said of Heckmann, who played solidly on Tuesday and has contributed in other games, including making a big 3-ponter against Glendale earlier this month.
“You don’t have to worry about him messing up a defensive coverage or missing a box out,” Zargarian said. “He’s just very fundamentally sound.”
As for Krikorian’s contributions … they weren’t huge. He missed his first two shots and ended up with two points for the game. But he was a player on the 2013 CIF semifinal team, and the Falcons count on him for playmaking ability and leadership.
He said he initially thought about his ankle too much during Monday’s practice and then earlier in the game. Would his ankle allow him to beat a defender off the dribble? Could he take this jump shot? As the game went on, that went away.
“You stop thinking about what you have to do and you just do it,” Krikorian said.
“When Berj is not there, we don’t have a point guard to bring the ball up the floor and establish our offense,” Ovanessian said last week. “He’s a senior, he’s poised, he knows what to do. He’s experienced. It tough, but we’re managing.”
The Falcons host Burroughs (4-5 in league) on Friday at 7 p.m. The Indians beat CV by 20 points last time, when Krikorian went down in the first quarter, when Zargarian was furious at the referees all night, and when it was clear Burroughs took pleasure in stomping the Falcons.
But CV is on a roll now, with Shank and Taverdians filling in nicely for Krikorian, with Heckmann and Chris Reik doing the necessary things down low. It should be an interesting game at least.
“It feels great, having guys step up to do whatever you need them to do,” Krikorian said. “It takes a lot of pressure off my back so I don’t need to step in and do everything. I have great teammates.”