By Brandon HENSLEY
It was loud, it was tough and it was nasty. In the end, though, the Crescenta Valley boys’ basketball team punched a return ticket to the CIF Southern Section Division 1A semifinals with a 68-54 home quarterfinal victory over the Millikan Rams on Friday night.
It is the second straight season the Falcons (23-7) are in the semifinal game. They lost last year at Mission Viejo in that round, and will again travel south for a Tuesday contest against El Toro.
The Falcons main star was senior guard Cole Currie, who scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds, on the heels of a 28-point performance Tuesday against Edison High in the second round.
“It feels so good. Especially coming in this year,” said Currie. “A lot of people were down on us, and to be in the same position is just incredible. It’s a testament to our players, and [Coach Shawn Zargarian] and our coaching staff to be right back where we are.”
Junior guard Nick Springer contributed 15 points, and center Ryan Schlossemann had nine points.
“I don’t even know if it’s hit me yet,” said Zargarian. “I’m excited and I can’t really understand that we’re back in the semifinals again. It’s an amazing accomplishment by this team.”
It was tough early on. Though Currie’s nine points gave CV a 20-11 lead after one quarter, Millikan’s full-court pressure and relentless physical play never allowed CV to take over. The Falcons still led by nine at halftime, 32-23, but things changed in the third quarter.
CV turned the ball over nine times in the frame, and the Rams cut the lead to 39-37 on a three-point play by Malik Marquetti, who finished with 14 points.
Zargarian said his team’s bench became momentarily deflated during the Rams’ run, but Currie said he wasn’t worried.
“We knew it was just a hot streak and if we kept doing what we’re supposed to do defensively, they were going to start missing shots and they did, and we were able to capitalize,” said Currie.
It seemed like the game might come down the last couple of possessions. But with the Falcons up 45-42 in the fourth, they went on an 8-0 run to put the game out of reach, and Springer’s 3-pointer with less than four minutes left gave CV a 56-44 lead that sealed it.
“That is a hard team to play against,” Zargarian said. “Constant pressure, constant trapping.”
Brian Chambers led all Millikan players with 21 points, including three 3-pointers in the third quarter to spark the Rams’ run.
But it was Currie’s offensive game that turned the Rams back every time they made a push. Currie was 8-for-22 in getting his 28 points on Tuesday (he did make nine of his 12 free throws), but his quarterfinal performance was efficient, hitting 10 of 14 shots and converting all six free- throw attempts.
He did most of his damage on fast-break layups or in the midrange area, as he only took three 3-pointers (he took eight against Edison). All of this while absorbing a beating from the Millikan defenders.
Then again, almost everyone on the court took a beating. Zargarian said he was aware of the physical play on Currie, but admitted it was nice that the referees weren’t quick to blow a whistle on either team, and Currie agreed.
“We like playing physical, too. Not a lot of teams expect that,” Currie said.
The semifinal game at El Toro is on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The winner plays for the Division 1A championship on March 2.
Currie is averaging 20.6 points in three playoff games so far. Springer is averaging 20.3 … The Falcons beat El Toro at CVHS in last season’s quarterfinal game. They lost to Mission Viejo in the semis 65-60 … The “Harlem Shake” hit the CVHS gymnasium at halftime. CV senior Dylan Robie, a Falcon football player, put on a helmet and came out from the student section and led the large group in the dance craze that has seemingly swept the entire world (check Youtube.com for the evidence).