By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
The CV Falcons faced Valencia’s West Ranch Wildcats (3-7-0 league) on Tuesday night in Burbank.
The Wildcats hit the boards hard, displaying an aggressive stance that drew first blood, nailing two points less than a minute into the game quickly followed by a three-pointer. They expertly moved the ball across the court, seeming to stun the Falcons as CV attempted to play catch up in the first five minutes. At 4:30, the first Falcon basket was made by Dylan Kilgour but lost due to a player being in the key for more than three seconds. The error exacerbated the Falcons’ hesitancy and West Ranch lost no time taking advantage of their uncertainty.
With 2:30 on the clock, a fouled Vinnie Espinoza sunk one of two finally putting CV on the board. A two by Chris Chemlkeian plus another two by Christian Misi raised CV’s score and confidence. By the end of the first the Falcons were a respectable 6-9.
The Wildcats continued their aggressive playing, but now it bit them as foul after foul was piled on giving CV the edge they needed. The defensive battle resulted in a low scoring, Falcon-dominant 16-11 at the bottom of the half.
Returning to the boards, Misi quickly racked up four as a newly reluctant West Ranch – perhaps in response to the high number of fouls in the first half – scaled back their assault. This was all the invitation the Falcons needed.
They quickly captured seven points before West Ranch regained some of their previous momentum grabbing two three-pointers in a row, 23-18.
Misi again pulled the Falcons out of their stupor with a slam dunk, 25-22, rapidly followed by another two by Oshin Mahoodian. West Ranch was having none of it, responding in kind, closing the gap 27-25.
The top of the fourth and Crescenta Valley poured on a strong defense nailing four. A rebound by Daniel Goldsworthy then a three pointer by him brought the Falcons up to 34.
The Wildcats responded in kind, bringing the score to 34-30.
Then play all but stalled as the clock wound down to 2:00. The Falcons slowed the pace, burning time, ignoring West Ranch’s advances. Espinoza had enough and nailed a three pointer, 37-30. The Wildcats followed suit with two of their own, then captured another three.
But it wasn’t over yet. At :20, CV took the ball in and with Misi making four on fouls the buzzer sounded, ending the night 41-35.
Coach Eric Strangis said that the team didn’t come out strong early on, but made up for it in the end. “We trust our guys,” he said. “We made adjustments. Anytime you show improvement between the first and the fourth, it’s a good night.”
He also credited strong defensive play to fellow coach Matt Reid. “[Solid] defense wins championships,” he said. He added that Matt kept the team focused and encouraged, helping to maintain the team’s winning energy.