Senior guard is helping lead CV to an impressive summer league effort – so far.
By Brandon HENSLEY
Imagine if this game was held last season. The talent on the court might have been too much for the gymnasium to hold.
As it was Tuesday, the Falcons and Village Christian Crusaders boys’ basketball teams did not look the same as they did a few months ago – certainly not Crescenta Valley, at least.
But the Falcons barred down in the final minutes against Village and earned a scrappy 59-53 summer league victory at Burbank High School. That pushed CV’s summer record to 10-4, which may be eye-opening considering the players the team is trying to replace.
“We’re pleasantly surprised with our group right now,” said CV Coach Shawn Zargarian. “They’re competing, they’re playing hard. They’re sharing the ball. I don’t think we played very well [today] but down the stretch our guys kind of woke up and made the plays they needed to win it.”
The players that helped CV make a deep playoff in CIF – they advanced to the Southern Section semifinals and made the state playoffs for the first time since 1994 – are no longer there: Christian Misi, Rudy Avila, Davis Dragovich, Dylan Kilgour and Tade Keshishyan.
But there is still point guard Cole Currie, and on Tuesday that was enough. Currie was in midseason form, and he carried the Falcons through the second half, where he scored 18 of his 23 points.
He did miss three free throws in the second half that could have been fatal to CV’s chances, but he otherwise made almost every play imaginable: long 3-pointers, baseline fadeaways and couple of shots after drawing fouls when his defenders went for his pump fakes.
“Just trying to do whatever I can to help us win,” Currie said of his performance. “It happened to be shots today. Maybe next game it’ll be defense, rebounding.”
It’s not like Currie didn’t pass the ball – that’s sort of a requirement when you’re the point guard – but when the game was close late, the ball was in his hands.
“I think everyone we play is going to know that Cole’s our guy and we’re going to go to him,” said Zargarian. “I think he’s doing a good job of picking and choosing his spots right now of when to go and when not to go. He made big-time plays today, and that doesn’t surprise me. That’s the kind of player he is.”
Village was in control early. CV struggled to score points and the Crusaders raced out to a 19-12 lead after one quarter. They led at halftime 28-24 before Currie took over and gave CV a 36-35 lead going into the fourth.
Like CV, the Crusaders didn’t win their Southern Section playoff bracket this spring, but that didn’t matter. They made the state playoffs and went all the way to Sacramento, where they beat St. Joseph Notre Dame 62-51 for the Division V state title. The team, coached by John Shaw, went 32-3 overall.
The Crusaders are young. They lost players like 6-foot-7 Marquis Salmon but are still able to boast sophomore guard Skye Isles, junior guard Bryan Alberts and 6-7 junior Marsalis Johnson.
Village Christian’s edge in athleticism was apparent against the Falcons. That meant, like it usually does, CV had to rely on executing its plays perfectly.
“We’ve been in that situation before,” Currie said. “Even last year, and a lot now during the summer, we’ve been down in the first half. So we’re comfortable. We came back before, so it’s nothing new to us.”
Junior guard Nick Springer was the Falcons’ next highest scorer with 13 points. Senior forward Elliot Wilson, who played a prominent role down the stretch last season, had eight points. The day, though, belonged to Currie.
“I think it’s good for him to start building that attitude of, ‘When the game’s on the line the ball is going to be in my hands and I’m going to make the decisions,’” said Zargarian.
Fight On … from the bench
Former CV player Eric Strangis, who graduated USC this year and was on the Trojans’ basketball team, is helping out this summer as a coach. Zargarian is pushing for him to do more.
“Eric is with us right now,” Zargarian said. “I’m doing everything in my power to get him to be on our staff next year. He’s a great, great coach with a lot of knowledge, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. … As young as he is, he is an absolute basketball coach. You can just tell it’s in his blood.”
Currie said he’s soaking up anything Strangis tells him.
“Just knowledge of the game. Knowing different spots, where to go,” Currie said. “He’s really smart. He knows the finer details of basketball.”
The Other Guys
Eric Patten, Kris Jabourian, Springer and Wilson. Those are names Falcons fans are going to hear a lot of next season. After playing behind the starting five that helped CV win 26 games in 2011-12, it’s their time to step up.
Patten, a junior, is a center and the team’s biggest body. He only scored two points on Tuesday, but he has enough skill around the basket that’s it’s reasonable to expect him to be one of the top three or four scorers on the team. Zargarian sees potential and said he’ll keep pressing Patten all year.
“That’s what I told him. I said, ‘When I stop yelling at you, it’s time to worry.’ We expect a lot out of him,” Zargarian said.
“Those guys were all bench guys, role players, and now they’re in a position where they have to make plays,” Zargarian said. “Elliot is starting to come around. Eric is still young. He’s only going to be a junior … Kris by far is our vocal leader on the floor. He does a great job of that.”