Falcons grab fourth seed in Division 1A and are eager to wipe away frustrating playoff loss from last season.
By Brandon HENSLEY
The time it takes to go from euphoria to utter frustration can happen in just six days. The CV boys’ basketball team knows, because they lived that timeline last February. In the regular season finale against Arcadia, guard Cole Currie hit a game winning shot at the buzzer that sent the fans and his teammates into delirium.
But six days later CV opened the CIF playoffs at home to Quartz Hill, a team that finished with a sub-.500 record. Some of the Falcon players were battling sickness, and the team didn’t practice well leading up to the game. The end result was a 49-46 loss, and the season ended sooner than anyone thought it would.
Flash forward to present day, and the mood around the CV athletic facilities is calm and confident. The coaches and players seem as ready as they’ll ever be as they embark on a journey through the playoffs, which start Friday for the Falcons at home (for the record, no one is sick this time).
Their opponent is Colton High, located near Riverside. While that will be quite a bus ride for the Yellowjackets on Friday, it’s the Falcons who have come a long way this season.
Looking at their record – 22-5, 11-3 in the Pacific League – doesn’t paint a picture of struggles, but there was a point in the season when things could have unraveled for this talented team.
It was one month ago when CV ran into a buzz saw. Pacific League heavyweights Pasadena and Muir pushed them around in consecutive meetings. The Falcons lost those games by 21 and 20 points.
Before the season, CV had dreams of winning its first league title since 2004, but instead they didn’t show up against the teams that mattered most.
“We took a big step back,” said Coach Shawn Zargarian, “and said, ‘Where are we as a team? What do we need to do, and we need to reevaluate what we’re trying to do and how we’re going to get there.’”
There’s an idea that floats around every NFL season when a team has a chance to go undefeated. It goes something like this: Maybe it would be better for them to lose a game before the playoffs start so the pressure is off and the team can relax.
Maybe that was the case for the Falcons. Maybe they were too tight, unable to breathe and just go out there and play basketball.
“We had stuff before those two games that went unnoticed because we blew out lesser teams but we needed those two losses to get together and be a family again,” said Currie. “We could have went one of two ways, and we went the right way.”
“As coaches, we say sometimes losses are good things,” Zargarian said.
In the end, the Falcons didn’t win league, but they rallied from that moment in January, losing only a hard-fought game at Muir (one in which Zargarian said he was proud of his team). They took on scrappy Glendale, prevailed both times against a physical Burbank team, and in the most thrilling of games, beat Pasadena two weeks ago on a Christian Misi 3-pointer, shades of Currie’s shot one year ago.
So it’s easy to see why confidence is high at the moment.
“We feel really good where we are as team,” Zargarian said. “We’re coming off two weeks of good basketball. I know everyone’s talking about that Muir loss but I thought we played hard in that game, and things didn’t go our way but we like how we’ve been playing.”
Zargarian said these days he feels better about walking into practice than he used to. He said the players look confident.
“We had our ups and downs this year … we think we’re peaking at the right time,” Currie said.
That begs the question, then …
How Far Can They Actually Go?
Talent can only take a team so far, though. CV basketball aims high, but even though the program has been home to recent talent like Coltrane Powdrill, Nick Dragovich and this year’s group (which is essentially the same team as last year), CV hasn’t made a serious run in the CIF playoffs in a while.
Zargarian wants that to change. He was a player on the 1994 team that made it to the CIF Finals. He said more for the kids, and not for himself as a coach now, it would be special to make a run.
“I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of good things here as a player,” he said. “I’ve seen a league title, I’ve been to the CIF Finals, I’ve seen a 25-2 record … I really want it for our guys. I really do.
“To make a run in the CIF playoffs is just a whole different atmosphere. I really want our guys to experience the playoffs, get out of the first and move on.”
Forward Davis Dragovich was asked if the team has any thought of winning for the coaches.
“In way, yeah. We like making them proud because they work so hard for us,” he said.
“We think we can make a serious run at this,” Currie said. But before CV starts making plans for the next two weeks, they have to get by Colton …
So Who are the Colton Yellowjackets?
Colton finished 11-11, 5-9 in the San Andreas League and in sixth place. They averaged 53 points a game, and suffered through a six-game losing streak from Jan. 17 to Feb. 2.
“They don’t have a lot of size. Not a big team, very scrappy,” Zargarian said. “As much as I know, size should be an advantage for us.”
“I think that’s pretty much our strength against a lot of teams,” said Dragovich. “We’re bigger than a lot of teams, especially a team like Colton, so we’re going to try and dominate the paint.”
Zargarian said CV, which usually doesn’t like to full-court pressure, might try it out Friday. Either way, Dragovich’s mindset seems to be that the biggest obstacle in the playoffs is the Falcons themselves.
“I think this year, if we play our style of game and we’re smart, be unselfish, control the tempo, execute our stuff I think we’ll have a good chance against everybody,” he said.
We’ll find out starting Friday at 7 p.m.