By David O’CONNOR
The Crescenta Valley alumni team overpowered their junior opponents on Nov. 26, handily defeating the school’s varsity basketball team 70-51 in a game steeped in tradition.
Matt Oliver, a former Pacific League player of the year who led the Falcons to the league title in his senior season and played for Azusa Pacific University, fueled the alumni’s offense with a game-high 17 points. Narbeh Ebrahimian, an All-League selection, captain and team MVP for the Falcons and former San Diego State University player at the NCAA tournament, chipped in with 15 points.
Although it was fun to reconnect with teammates from yesteryear and it seemed like time stood still when their halcyon days ceased, Oliver emphasized the competitive nature of the alumni and how much pride is on the line in a traditional contest that has bragging rights at stake year-round.
“It’s just a lot of fun coming out here seeing guys you don’t see all the time. It’s like we’ve been playing together forever,” Oliver said. “A lot of us look forward to this all year long. There is so much tradition and pride here and we can’t let them win because there is too much competitiveness on our team.”
Oliver opened the alumni team’s scoring with a crafty steal and spectacular slam-dunk and backed this up by quickly feeding key member of the 1999 team, Matt Ray, for a pinpoint trey. Oliver was well-supported by two time All-CIF player and captain of Harvard’s basketball team Jimmy Goffredo, who asserted himself outside the perimeter with two three- pointers as the alumni jumped out to an 18-5 lead just before the first quarter ended.
Co-captain senior guard Berj Krikorian brought the varsity boys back to life with an aggressive drive and an eye-catching spin that led to a lay-up with a minute left in the first quarter. Junior guard Tadeh Taverdian also rejuvenated the Falcons’ stale shooting with a much-needed triple.
Varsity head coach Shawn Zargarian praised the alumni’s impressive starting lineup which that contained several former college Division 1 athletes. Though the graduates possessed a myriad of strengths that the varsity squad couldn’t contain, he is hopeful that his side will take the lessons from this challenging game into the rest of their season.
“The alumni is just a [heavy] load and it’s that way every single year. Their first five were Division 1 basketball players. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re smart – it’s really hard to defend,” Zargarian said. “Hopefully [this year’s team] learned that you’ve got to be competitive, you’ve got to be tough, you’ve got to be physical, you’ve got to compete for 32 minutes. We didn’t do that tonight, obviously, but it’s a learning experience.”
Eric Strangis, a former All-League player, ex-USC starter and current assistant coach of the varsity team, didn’t go easy on junior Arin Ovanessian by putting him in his place with a bulldozing foul early in the second quarter. The varsity boys didn’t let this intimidate them and reduced the margin to a three-point deficit with penetrative offense.
Oliver came to his team’s rescue when he drove the lane with a leaping finger-roll that turned into a three-point play when he was fouled in the process. The alumni’s big men kept their petite rivals in check with smothering defense, which allowed Oliver to grow his team’s lead to 39-22 at half-time due to another three-pointer.
Oliver showcased more of his skills in the second half by producing an around-the-back pass and dribble which left the Falcons defenders scratching their heads. The alumni continued to direct their offense toward Oliver’s capable hands as he ran rings around the varsity players he has addressed as one of the guest speakers for Coach Zargarian’s annual basketball camp for CV youngsters.
Known to the CV basketball family as “Coach Z,” Zargarian praised junior Gabriel Ajemian and sophomore Journey Shank despite a disappointing performance overall from his team.
“I really liked the way Gabe Ajemian played,” Zargarian said. “I thought he was physical, I thought he rebounded the ball and wasn’t scared. I thought Journey off the bench gave us some really good minutes, [but] overall I don’t think we played very well.”
“We’re a work in progress right now,” he added. “We have a lot of work to do for next week’s Buckley tournament. We always shoot to be great, but right now we’re not. Our toughness and competitiveness is really lacking. We’re just going through the motions.”