Falcons’ run through CIF playoffs ends with semifinal loss to Mission Viejo.
By Brandon HENSLEY
They danced with yellow balloons and plastic pitchforks at half court, the gym at Mission Viejo almost too small to hold the joy that came at the final buzzer.
In the end, it was the Diablos who advanced past the semifinal round and will play for the Southern Section Division 1A title on Friday. For the CV Falcons, there are at least the memories of a season that lasted longer than any since 1994.
The Falcons lost Tuesday, 65-60, partly because they couldn’t grab a last minute defensive rebound, partly because of a foul that could have gone either way and, maybe most of all, because they finally met their match.
It was all part of a frantic final few minutes between two teams that looked evenly matched. CV’s Davis Dragovich hit a 3-pointer to cut Mission Viejo’s lead to 60-57 late. But then CV guard Cole Currie, who had been stellar all playoffs with his clutch shooting, forced an off-balanced 3-pointer that rimmed out with under two minutes left.
The Falcons had force a stop, but they were having trouble getting defensive rebounds all game and with just over a minute left, the Diablo’s Evan Zeller missed a shot as the shot clock expired. But Michael Cramer was there to grab the rebound. In the game’s second biggest play, Cramer took the ball after a timeout and drove the lane. Christian Misi was called for a blocking foul on Cramer with 40 seconds left, which set the Falcons’ crowd ablaze.
Cramer, who had a game-high 20 points, made both free throws to make it a five-point lead. CV would not get closer than three points after that.
Misi, who fouled out after the block was called, was asked after if he felt like he had position enough to draw a charge instead.
“I felt like I did, but I wasn’t watching from the outside,” he said.
“Mission Viejo’s strongest attribute is offensive rebounding,” said CV Coach Shawn Zargarian of Cramer’s rebound.
Dragovich was asked about Misi’s foul and if there was a turning point at any time during the game.
“I don’t think there was a turning point,” he said. “It was close the whole way through. I don’t know how the feel was from the stands but it felt like it was a one-possession game the whole game.”
Mission Viejo came into the game with 26 wins and was the No. 1 seed in Division 1A (the Falcons were the fourth seed). Although CV was well represented with fans, the rather small Mission Viejo gym was full of raucous support for the home team, and led by senior guard Cramer, Diablo fans were not disappointed.
Cramer scored a game-high 21 points, 16 of them in the second half. The next highest scoring teammate in the half was Jahleel Pinner with five.
The Falcons (26-5) started strong and led 24-15 early in the second. The Diablos made a run and ended up with a halftime lead of 33-32 after Max Redfield scored a layup at the buzzer.
CV came out in the third quarter and took a 38-35 lead thanks to an open court steal and layup by Currie. But the Diablos answered again, mostly thanks to Cramer and tough defense. CV at one point turned the ball over four straight times, and Mission Viejo capitalized, going on a 10-0 run. They would not trail again in the game.
“When we started turning the ball over and let them go in transition, that’s when we started to fall,” said Misi, who scored 17 points and helped CV back from a nine-point deficit in the fourth.
“Misi’s done that for us for four years now,” Zargarian said of his All-CIF forward. “It’s hard to even imagine that he’s graduating, but he finds a way to big plays and he finds a way to get to the basket and do stuff. That’s who he is.”
After the game, the players changed clothes in the Diablos’ weight room. They dressed somberly in what was the end of the ride for seniors Misi, Dragovich, Rudy Avila, Dylan Kilgour and Tade Keshishyan.
The Falcons did qualify for play in the state tournament. Details on the game are to come at a later date.
Their run at a CIF title is over, but Zargarian was proud of his team in dealing with the talented Diablos.
“It’s a credit to our guys’ toughness and ability to play through adversity,” he said. “They made a big run at us in the second quarter and had a good lead and we competed and kept playing, and that’s what these guys are about.”
Rapid Reaction on the Season that Was
“We battled through adversity all year. It’s a hard loss, but we have to keep our heads high … It’s tough to play on the road but it’s a really fun environment. I don’t think that really affected too many of our guys because … we had so many fans here … It’s definitely a really good season, it’s just hard to see it end. You never see this day coming.” – Davis Dragovich
“As much as we’re hurting right now, it’s one of the best seasons CV’s ever had. We’re proud of what we accomplished.” – Christian Misi
“Our guys left their mark in our program’s history, getting 26 wins, to advance to the semifinals, for a lot of these guys it’s their third 20-win season in a row.” – Coach Shawn Zargarian