By Brandon HENSLEY
The Crescenta Valley High School boys’ basketball team had its season end at the hands of Oak Park High School last Friday. The Eagles used their size, specifically 6’8″ freshman Riley Battin, to disrupt the Falcons’ offense, and came away with a 66-46 victory at Oak Park.
“Offensively, we hit a wall tonight,” said CV Head Coach Shawn Zargarian. “We felt like we could score on Oak Park, but our shots weren’t falling. We got a little stagnate on offense, took some bad shots.”
The Falcons had a good first quarter, leading 15-9 after eight minutes of play, but then things turned. Zargarian said Oak Park did a good job of coming out and defending CV’s shooters, and Battin’s presence inside was simply too much.
“I think [Battin] is a load on both ends of the floor … he’s going to be a special player,” Zargarian said.
Kyle Currie led the Falcons in scoring with 19 points, including five 3-pointers. But no one else scored in double digits, and CV was uncharacteristically poor from the foul line, converting only five of its 13 attempts.
“Our offense stopped a little bit,” said forward Jimmy Smiley. “We weren’t hitting shots.”
The Falcons finished the season in CIF Division 1-AA with 19 wins, and a 10-4 mark in the Pacific League, good for third place.
It was a grind all year. The team lost senior Connor Van Ginkel in December, when he opted to focus on football. Van Ginkel’s presence in the post would have been welcome for an undersized squad like Crescenta Valley.
The Falcons opened the Pacific League with a loss to Muir High School on a last-second fade-away jumper from Muir’s Jeremy Hayes. It didn’t get any better for the next week. After a 20-point loss at Burroughs, which including starting point guard Berj Krikorian being lost to injury, the Falcons were at 1-3 in league.
Krikorian wouldn’t return for more than two weeks, but led by junior Arin Ovanessian, the team found its composure and reeled off nine wins in its next 10 games. Ovanessian scored a career high 35 points in a January win at Glendale, and the Falcons beat Muir and Burroughs in both rematches.
Still, the season could have been a bit better. The Muir loss had to hurt, and the Falcons also lost to Pasadena at home after leading by nine points in the fourth quarter. If those heart breakers went the other way, Crescenta Valley could have won its second straight league championship.
Both Zargarian and Smiley were proud of how the team rebounded from a bad start to the year.
“Coach tells us, ‘Your character is defined when you face adversity,’” Smiley said. “We faced adversity when we started 1-3 in league. But after that we came back won nine out of 10 games.”
“That says a lot about our group,” Zargarian added.
After the Oak Park loss, it was time for the seniors, Kirkorian, Currie, Smiley, Thulani Kachingwe and John Park, to say goodbye.
Zargarian said the hardest part of losing in the playoffs is going in the locker room and seeing the faces of his crestfallen seniors. He remembers being in the position himself 20 years ago, like it was yesterday. His 1995 Falcons team lost in the second round, and his coach John Goffredo had to address seniors like Zargarian, who had tears in his eyes. Then it was on to the bus for the long ride home.
The realization that there were no games to be played was heart wrenching, Zargarian said. It’s the same way as a coach.
“It’s never fun whether you lose in first round or the semifinals because you have to say goodbye to your seniors,” he said. “That’s the hardest part about these games, seeing the seniors in the locker room, seeing the tears in their eyes. You have to remind them it’s not about this game; it’s about the legacy they left in this program. Our seniors did an amazing job for us.”
Before Smiley graduates in June, he still has more to do. He’ll be pitching once again for the CV baseball team this spring. Before the baseball regular season begins, he looked back on his basketball career.
“We fought through adversity with our teammates, and learned lessons. It’s not about the wins and losses. It’s about being together and forming bonds. That’s what we’re going to take away,” he said. “It’s tough to think about how I’m never going to step on our gym floor to ever practice again, being in the locker room, having fun, messing around.”