Basketball team is fourth seed in playoffs and hopes to recapture feelings of last year’s exciting run.
By Brandon HENSLEY
Does God play favorites? The student section at Crescenta Valley High basketball games certainly thinks so. When this “chosen” player steps to the free-throw line, or jogs back on defense after hitting another near-impossible shot, the students stomp their feet, put their hands together and shout out three simple words for all to hear, to let everyone know this is the gospel according to CV students:
“God Loves Cole, Clap Clap Clap-Clap-Clap!”
The subject in the chant, four-year varsity guard Cole Currie, laughs it off when asked his feelings on the adoration.
“They come up with creative stuff. ‘God loves Cole.’ I don’t know where they came up with that one, but that one gets me,” Currie said. “It’s pretty funny.”
If anything, it’s at least more creative than the usual M-V-P chants some players receive (don’t worry, Currie gets those, too.)
But it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it. Currie is an All-Pacific League player who averaged just under 20 points a game in league (19.6), and is set to lead his Falcons on another run through the CIF Playoffs.
The Falcons finished the season 20-7, their fourth straight 20-win season, and went 11-3 in the Pacific League where they placed second. They are the No. 4 seed in the Southern Section Division 1A, and will host Paloma Valley High School (12-16 record) on Friday at 7 p.m.
“I don’t think anybody thought … this team would be able to finish 11-3 in league and 20-7, a 20-win season,” said Coach Shawn Zargarian. “It really shows how chemistry and teamwork and buying into the system really work.”
The Falcons’ run last year was the team’s best since 1994 when CV lost in the CIF finals. Currie, the lone returning starter from last year’s squad that went to the CIF semifinals and made the state tournament, recalled the craziness at school.
“The energy was unbelievable,” he said. “People coming up to you, you have no idea who they are, talking to you. That’s what I remember most.”
Currie said last year’s close loss in the semifinals at Mission Viejo is what’s driving him this time around, and even though the makeup of this Falcon team is different than last year’s, the confidence is still there.
“I think if we play together, it’s the same thing,” he said. “It’s still basketball.”
Sophomore guard Berj Krikorian said Currie has done a good job being a leader on and off the court.
“Even though everyone is banged up, everyone’s fatigued, he’s making sure all of us are on track,” Krikorian said.
The Falcons stormed out of the league gate, going 8-0, but stumbled at the finish line, splitting their last six games, including a home overtime loss to Muir in which Currie missed out on being the hero.
He hit two 3-pointers in the final seconds to send the game into overtime. But with his team up by two points, he missed his second free throw – during an M-V-P chant from the students, no less – and on Muir’s next possession, Jelani Mitchell nailed a 3 from the top of the key with a second to go, sealing the win for the Mustangs.
“It was probably the worst I ever felt after a game,” Currie said. “Even [including] the playoffs, just how we had to come back and how it felt like they just ripped it from us and took it from us. And missing that free throw, too. It’s killing me.”
Now here is everyone’s chance to make it better. CV possesses deadly outside shooting with senior Kris Jabourian and junior Nick Springer, and Zargarian said center Eric Patten is finally playing up to his capabilities down low after battling injuries all year.
“This week at practice so far has been really good,” said Krikorian. “All of us have high energy and everyone’s locked in and ready to go.”
“I was really down on myself and struggling … Obviously, with a lot of guidance and support from people who have done it before, we’ve been able to turn it around.”
–Shawn Zargarian, on his early days as head coach
But Currie’s time is almost up. During senior recognition night Feb. 7, a blowout win against Arcadia, Currie was taken out in the fourth quarter, and left to a standing ovation. He was welcomed with a long hug from Zargarian, who said he told Currie how proud he was of him and how much he has meant to the program.
“He’s established himself as one of the top players to play in this school’s history,” Zargarian said.
“That was really special,” Currie said of the embrace. “It’s been a long journey for us.”
For Zargarian, his journey has been a bit rockier. He took over as coach from Jim Smiley and immediately fell on hard times. One of his early teams won just eight games, and went 1-9 in league.
“I was really down on myself and struggling with, ‘Am I able to do this? We’re losing, how are we going to turn it around?” Zargarian said. “Obviously, with a lot of guidance and support from people who have done it before, we’ve been able to turn it around.”
He talked with former CV coaches John Goffredo, Smiley and Adam Jacobsen, and they told him to keep going, to stay with it, and that it would take a few years to really establish something that Zargarian could call his own.
The program now certainly looks like it’s in steady shape, even when Currie graduates.
“We’re not done yet, but I think it’s more of a testament to our coach and they guys we have coming in,” Currie said. “[Coach] Z is unbelievable how he molds players and gets guys to buy in.”
The Falcons were the No. 4 seed last year as well. They defeated Colton High in the opening round … Currie’s highest scoring game was 34 points in a win at Glendale on Jan. 4. He totaled 30 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in win vs. Burroughs … The CV frosh/soph team, coached by Mark Samford, won league title by going undefeated. The JV team, coached by Joe Maniccia, went 13-1 in league and also won the championship.
The Feb. 7 game against Arcadia was senior recognition night. For those photos plus many more of the game including the pep squad, visit www.cvweekly.com and click on Sports.