By Mark FABRICK
Nothing like some home cooking to get the Crescenta Valley High School boys’ basketball team back on track. After losing some close, tough games in the San Fernando Valley Invitational Tournament earlier this month, the Falcons returned home to host the Falcon Classic Tournament last week.
After opening the tournament with victories over Verdugo Hills and La Salle, the Falcons took on Cesar Chavez Learning Academies on Dec. 12. The Falcons came out intense and focused and it was clear from the opening tip that the Chavez Eagles were overmatched.
The Falcons (5-4) went to work immediately on the defensive end utilizing a tenacious backcourt trap defense that the Eagles could not find their way out of. This generated a ton of turnovers and a number of easy buckets for the Falcons. The Falcons opened the game on an 11-0 run and outscored Chavez 24-2 in the first quarter en route to a 72-13 victory.
A couple of minutes into the second quarter and the backcourt trap was back, again leading to a flurry of buckets off of turnovers. The crowd in the CV gym roared when junior swingman Kevin Dinges skied for a one-handed dunk. The Falcons went into the locker room at halftime up 50-9.
The Falcons never let up and went on a 10-0 run to start the third quarter. CV Coach Shawn Zargarian emptied the bench at the five-minute mark in the third quarter as the Eagles went scoreless the entire quarter. The Falcons’ win set up Friday night’s final against Hart High of Valencia.
After the game Zargarian praised the team’s defense.
“We played Cesar a week ago and beat them by a good amount, so for us, you still have to play the game and play the right way and I think our kids played hard,” Zargarian said. “That’s one thing that we demand regardless of the score and I think our guys did that.”
Zargarian added that the same defensive intensity would be key against Hart. “Our key definitely should be defensively. We have to protect the paint, make them shoot contested jump shots and, most of all, protect the ball and not turn it over.”
As Zargarian alluded, the matchup against the Hart Indians would be far more challenging.
Hart came out and packed the paint and pressured CV’s ball handlers at the half court line. The outstanding combo of Miles Franklin and Lewis Stallworth was too much for the Falcons to contend with, and CV lost 79-62.
Dinges was frustrated by the Indians’ defense; junior guards Berj Krikorian and Kyle Currie couldn’t facilitate anything in the half court and Hart leaped out to a 21-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Falcons played better and with more cohesion in the second quarter, but they couldn’t dent Hart’s lead heading into halftime trailing 44-31.
The CV gym was abuzz for the game; there was a lively student section that featured about 30 students who stayed on their feet the entire time. There were also hecklers in the crowd, although they appeared to heckle both sides.
The Indians went on a 12-5 run to start the third extending their lead to 20 points. The Falcons and their crowd showed some resiliency; Currie converted a four- point play to keep the Falcons alive and CV went on a 9-2 run that even elicited some cheers of “Let’s go, Falcons” from the crowd.
However, Franklin responded with five straight points and the Falcons were right back where they started, trailing 67-48 at the end of the third. The Falcons made one final run toward the end of the game, when senior forward Eric Patten cut the lead to 16 with a put-back of a missed free throw with just over two minutes to go.
This time, it was Stallworth who led the Indians’ drives back up the floor with his scoring and passing, ending any hope of CV making it close down the stretch.
Although it was little consolation, Patten and Dinges each made the all-tournament team. But Hart had three representatives on the all-tourney team including Stallworth who won tournament MVP honors.
Zargarian still praised his team’s effort after the game citing their resilience.
“Coming off of a 2-3 tournament over there at San Fernando,” he said, “to be able to bounce back and win an overtime game in the first round and then play La Salle, be down the first half, come back and win and make it to the championship – it shows a little resilience on our guys’ part.”
The Falcons next a tournament at Hart High School in Valencia is during Christmas week. Pacific League play starts on Jan. 7.
Flintridge Prep Action
The Rebels were also featured in the Falcon Classic and started out strong, winning their first two games against Jefferson and Cleveland, but fell in their last two contests to Hart 74-43 and then, in the third-place game, to Verdugo Hills 60-36.
Senior guard Robert Cartwright, who signed with Stanford University, did not play in the Verdugo Hills game because of a sprained ankle. Kyle Hamane led the team with 12 points in Cartwright’s absence. The Rebels (2-2) play today, hosting Sierra Canyon at 7:30 p.m. and then head out to a Santa Barbara tournament starting Dec. 27.