CV wins a thriller vs. Pasadena and loses a close one at Muir this week. Zargarian says he’s proud of his team. Playoffs start Tuesday.
By Brandon HENSLEY
There is a new Pacific League champion in boys’ basketball. Ladies and gentlemen … presenting your Muir Mustangs.
OK, so that wasn’t the news Falcons players and fans wanted to hear this week, but it became the reality Tuesday night at Muir High School.
Fans came out from the bleachers and jumped around with Muir players at mid court after a hard-fought 66-63 victory over the Falcons. With the win, Muir (24-1, 13-0 in league) clinched an outright title, dethroning Pasadena, who had won league every year since 2005.
The game was tight throughout, but Muir took control early in the fourth quarter and held on, thanks to clutch free throws from junior forward Jelani Mitchell, who converted five attempts down the stretch when the Falcons had to foul.
It was a disappointing quarter for the Falcons (21-5, 10-3), one in which they didn’t score until over four minutes had gone by. Forward Davis Dragovich led the way with nine points in the quarter – he had 19 overall – but CV’s outside shot didn’t fall like it had earlier in the game.
“I think our kids played hard. I was proud of the way our kids played tonight and at the end of the day it’s a loss but I’m proud of their effort,” said CV Coach Shawn Zargarian.
The Falcons could have rolled over when Tevin Polk hit a 3-pointer with just over three minutes left to give Muir a 61-51 lead. But Dylan Kilgour’s 3-pointer made it 63-59 a little later on. By then, the Falcons had to resort to fouling Muir in hopes of getting the ball back, and eventually the clock ran out.
CV guard Cole Currie had 15 points and forward Christian Misi had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Zargarian said he thought Muir rotated better on defense in the second half and was able to get their hands on a lot of balls. CV committed 19 turnovers in the game.
Down 15-14, CV ran off 10 unanswered points to open the second quarter. In that frame, Kilgour had 11 points, including three 3-pointers, and CV led 37-31 at the half. But Muir fought back in the third, led by Polk’s seven points and Mitchell’s eight.
Tuesday’s game was a display of contrasting styles. Muir can certainly score from the outside, but the Mustangs like to get it in low first and go from there. Their guards, including Polk and Dion Nelson, are quick and can penetrate defenses with ease.
“They went to the rack, absolutely,” Zargarian said. “They really put pressure on our defense by getting to the rim tonight.”
Zargarian said the loss didn’t take away what the Falcons accomplished last Friday at CV on senior night vs. Pasadena. Thanks to Misi’s 3-pointer with six seconds left, CV won the game 61-60, and the program got its first win against the Bulldogs in seven years.
Misi on the other hand, was more subdued than his coach on Tuesday.
“A loss like that still hurts a lot, especially by three points,” he said. “You know – one possession, one thing you could have done better. It’s playoff time. That’s what we have to focus now.
“I’m glad we beat Pasadena, but that’s another game,” Misi added. “I’m happy [I made] that shot but it’s tough losing this one because we wanted to come back and win this one real bad, but I’m proud of the effort.”
The Falcons play Arcadia tonight to wrap up the regular season. CV is currently sixth in the Southern Section Division 1A rankings, and don’t look to move up or down regardless of tonight’s result. Playoff matchups will be announced on Sunday, and Zargarian said his team would begin the postseason on Tuesday.
Tough Place to Play
The atmosphere in Muir’s gym doesn’t lend itself kindly to opponents. Not only is the building itself cramped, but the actual court is smaller than the other courts in the Pacific League, and when Muir players get their hands up and pressure defensively, it can look like the ball is trying to be passed through a bunch of fast moving blades.
“We fell a little bit into their pressure game,” Misi said. “We had a lot of turnovers, and we started rushing a little bit and that’s when they got their runs.”
“Muir plays with heart for 32 minutes and that pressure wears on you,” said Zargarian. “We did a good job early but I think fatigue kind of got to us.”
More Than a Coach
A small contingent of student fans has followed the Falcons for every road game. Against Muir, Kilgour went to the sideline with a small cut on his arm. Zargarian took his arm and taped it up himself, prompting the CV students behind the Falcon bench to chant, “Doc-tor Z! Doc-tor Z!”
Feb. 3: A Special Night
The Falcons honored their 50th anniversary team last Friday before tipping off against Pasadena. The team included Gene Sutherland, who went on to win NCAA titles with UCLA, and CV’s first coach Ed Goorjian.
It was also Senior Night, as the upperclassman said goodbye as they walked down the court with their families. Then the game took place, and in front of a full house, fans did not leave disappointed.
A back and forth affair saw CV down late 60-58. The Falcons took the ball out of bounds at half court, and it eventually found Misi in front of the team’s bench.
He launched a 3-pointer that went in with just over six seconds left. Pasadena did not get a shot off in time on the ensuing possession.
Fans rushed the court as Zargarian hugged former Falcon coach John Goffredo, whom Zargarian played for in the 1990s.