By Brandon HENSLEY
The biggest test the Crescenta Valley boys’ basketball team faces every season comes from guys with bad knees whose day jobs have nothing to do with leather balls and hardwood. Some of them graduated high school decades ago.
So, that stuff about being a huge test can’t be right … right? When it’s the CVHS alumni team administering that test – players heavily decorated during their time in blue and white – it’s absolutely correct, proven during the annual alumni game at the school Nov. 21.
“I tell our guys this is probably the best team we’ll play all year,” said head coach Shawn Zargarian.
“We always say it’s the best team we’ll face,” said senior guard Cole Currie. “You go out there and [former coach Jim] Smiley is reading off all of their accomplishments and it feels like it goes on forever.”
What makes it special for Zargarian are the big crowds that are able to watch players who gave stellar performances as Falcons.
“I try to stress to our guys that our alumni game is different than other schools’ in that there are so many that want to come back and play in our alumni game,” said Zargarian. “There are lots of schools that have to beg people to come back but we have so many that we have to turn some away.”
The results this year were the same as they typically are – physical play and an alumni varsity victory, 72-62. A new player to the game this year was Eric Strangis, who graduated USC in May and is on CV’s coaching staff this year. He got into it a little with his protégé Currie.
“Those guys want to win bad,” said Currie. “It was good. Good to be physical, and we fought back, which was good.
“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” he said of he and Strangis.
The last time the CVHS varsity team won was in 2000, when sophomore Jimmy Goffredo made the game-winning layup. Goffredo graduated in 2003, went on to star for Harvard’s team, and now he and Matt Oliver, a 2004 grad who played at Azusa Pacific, make one heck of backcourt for the “old guys.”
It was Oliver who had the play of the night, dunking over Nick Springer in the third quarter. Oliver has managed to get a dunk in every game since he started playing in the alumni contest.
“I have to do it early while I still have legs,” he said before the game. Oliver added that it’s a thrill to come back and play every Thanksgiving weekend.
“I remember looking up to the guys we played against so much,” he said. “Especially growing up, watching CV games, you know all the guys, like the Jacobsens [Adam, Brock and Blake], so it’s a lot of fun to play now.”
While Oliver said he’s not as in shape as he used to be, it’s guys like Harvey Mason, who played at the University of Arizona, and Barrie Eget who are the real veterans of the game.
Eget graduated in 1987 and played at Cal State Northridge. He lives in Santa Clarita with his wife and children, so making it back every year isn’t a problem.
“It’s a huge deal,” he said. “Growing up in La Crescenta, it’s a basketball city. The guys that I idolized were Brad Holland and Greg Goorjian, and that’s all I wanted to be and sure enough, in my junior year I got to guard Brad, and my senior year I got to guard Greg.”
Eget doesn’t get as much playing time as he used to, but he doesn’t hold that against John Goffredo, his high school coach who handles the same duties for the alumni now.
“I had bad knees in high school, so the fact that I could still be doing this 26, 27 years later, I feel blessed,” he said.
The varsity actually got out to a fast start. They led 21-14 after one quarter, behind the hot hand of Currie. Once the alumni caught up, the teams spent the next two quarters trading leads.
A pleasant development for the varsity this year is center Eric Patten, who will be counted to fill the void left by Christian Misi and Rudy Avila. Patten’s aggressiveness and skills around the basket have progressed since last season, and it showed in the alumni game.
Tied at 50 going into the fourth, the alumni easily pulled away.
“The wealth of knowledge our older guys have, it plays a big part,” said Oliver. “They’re getting older but they’re still super smart.”
Eget said last year’s team, which won 26 games and made the state tournament, was one of the best teams the alumni ever faced.
This year’s team?
“Tough, scrappy, that’s a Falcon team,” he said. “They’ll find a way to win 20 games. Not as much talent, but they’ll play like Falcons do.”
Coach Z’s Favorite Moments
Former Falcon Zargarian said he didn’t realize how special it was back when he was a senior, but his alumni game in the ’90s was the last time Brad Holland and Greg Goorjian played for the alumni. Goorjian and Holland were All-Americans in the ’70s, and Holland was drafted by the Lakers and won an NBA championship.
Another special moment for him was when Adam Jacobsen, a former CV All-American, became coach of the Falcons and one year came out at halftime and suited up for the alumni, to the delight of the crowd and players.
“We had talked about it all week,” said Zargarian, who was assistant coach then. “Adam said he was going to do that … I know our guys were so excited to see him. For me, it was an opportunity to coach the game, but it was really cool to see Adam out there because I looked up to him when I was high school.”
The varsity will host the annual Falcon Classic next Tuesday through Friday. Tuesday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.