By Brandon HENSLEY
After watching enough high school basketball over the years, there’s really no way to deny it: some nights lend themselves to an exciting atmosphere, and some don’t.
And on those more apathetic evenings, like Tuesday at Crescenta Valley High School, when players run out to a gym showing rows of empty spaces on its benches, under a foggy and drizzly sky, the ability to focus and take care of business can seem more like a chore than a game.
As it was, the Falcons came out and slogged their way through the first quarter, picking up enough steam as the game progressed and, thanks to a big night from Journey Shank, to get by the Burroughs Indians 64-56 to keep their hold on third place in the Pacific League.
Shank, a senior guard, poured a game-high 26 points and added four assists, providing the spark his team needed. CV shot just two of 13 in the first quarter, the second basket courtesy of Shank beating the buzzer from a few feet out. Despite the offensive ineptitude, the Falcons only trailed 13-9.
“We were playing at such an odd lull, like we weren’t excited to play. They got like that, and I got like that,” CV Head Coach Shawn Zargarian said. “It was just … at least we were able to defend them a little bit and not let them get on a run.”
Shank went off in the second quarter, scoring 12 points while hitting four of his five field goal attempts. Burroughs’ Tristan Hull scored 24 points, but he had to work hard for them all night.
“I thought offensively we were going to start making shots,” Zargarian said. “Defense was good, but I think it got better. We did a good job on Tristan in the second half.”
CV used full-court pressure to trap Burroughs and create turnovers to stay in the game, a strategy Zargarian employed because he wanted to change the pace of play. Other than that, he had to rely on Shank.
“Thank God [Journey] found a way to manufacture points and get us going, because that kept us in the game,” Zargarian added.
The victory improved CV’s record to 17-8, 9-4 in the Pacific League. After a heart-breaking loss to Muir last Friday, when CV led the Mustangs by double digit points in the fourth quarter before losing in overtime, Tuesday’s win was important to solidify CV’s third place standing in league, ahead of Burbank. The Falcons’ regular season finale is tonight at 7 p.m. as they host Arcadia. Playoff seeding will be announced this weekend.
It was midway through the fourth quarter when the Falcons pulled away from Burroughs, using a 10-3 run to make it 57-42 with 3:52 left. During that run, Shank and Trey Ballard each scored while being fouled, and made their free throws. Ballard was off all night until the final frame, when he scored eight of 13 points.
But this was clearly Shank’s night.
“I needed to pick up for myself and for our team, for us to continue to be successful,” Shank said. “As the season’s going on I need to pick it up offensively, and get our team going defensively.”
Shank is a player who always looks to go inside. He spins away from defenders, bumps into other defenders and, when the opportunity is there to create more contact, Shank makes sure he absorbs the blows. He finds himself at the foul line more often than not and, depending on the day, that’s either a good thing or a bad thing.
Last Friday it was a bad thing when Shank missed multiple free throws in the second half as the Falcons blew their lead. Shank said he knew he had to put it behind him, shoot more free throws the next day in practice, and come out better for the experience.
Against Burroughs he made eight of nine from the stripe.
Even though the Muir game was for second place in league, both Zargarian and Shank acknowledge the goal of any team is knowing how to put those losses behind and moving on.
“If you try and sit there and dwell about Friday, you have issues. Tough game, learn from it, get better,” said Zargarian, who joked to his team this week about the Super Bowl, where the Atlanta Falcons lost a 25–point lead to the New England Patriots. He said if it happened to a Super Bowl participant, it can happen to anyone.
“We have to figure out how to finish at the end,” Shank said. “Once we get a good lead we have to keep playing that way.”
Before the game tonight, the program will acknowledge its seniors: Shank, Ballard, Koko Kechichian, David Heckmann, Kudzai Kachingwe, Chris Chavez and Eric Yun. The ceremony starts at 6:30 p.m.
Shank said it will be a surreal experience; after watching senior night the past three years, it’s his chance to be saluted, along with his teammates.
“It matters. This is our last chance to be together, play for each other. Let’s have fun out there, together,” he said.
Girls’ Basketball Update
The CV girls’ basketball team has a chance to win the Pacific League outright when it hosts Arcadia tonight at 5 p.m. The Lady Falcons are 16-9, 8-3 in league as they head into the season finale. The team defeated Burroughs on Tuesday in overtime, 54-46. With Burroughs leading 44-41 with just seconds left, the Falcons stole the ball off an inbounds play. It went to Caity Bouchard, who dribbled down the court and nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer. CV then dominated overtime. The win was the first for the program over the Indians since 2010.
If Pasadena loses tonight and CV wins, it will have won league outright. As it stands, the Falcons have claimed a share of the title.