By Brandon HENSLEY
There was alumnus Matt Oliver missing a wide-open layup. There was alumnus Narbeh Ebrahimian, battling it out down low and becoming more unnerved by the minute by the physical play.
And yet, when it was all over on Nov. 23 in the main gymnasium at CV High School, the alumni walked away winners over the Crescenta Valley varsity squad, 69-64. It was like it always was because the alumni are always bigger and stronger and the team features not only past greats, such as Oliver and Ebrahimian, but also Greg Goorjian, who averaged 43.4 points a game one season – without a three-point line. There was also Jimmy Goffredo, who played at Harvard and was inducted into the CVHS Athletic Hall of Fame this past May.
Not that varsity Head Coach Shawn Zargarian was upset. It’s an exhibition game, after all, a pre-Thanksgiving tradition to informally tip off the basketball season. On this night, Zargarian loved most of what his team did, or at least tried to do.
“I was very pleased and impressed with the way we played tonight,” he said. “We made some mistakes … some of the stuff we can’t control because they’re bigger and stronger than us … but I think we did a good job of competing and not backing down. I thought for a few moments there we were in their heads, where they were frustrated and chirping at the referees.”
The toughest part about playing the alumni, he said, is not the size of the players but the collective basketball IQ. Zargarian said his team might think a certain play will work, but because the opposition’s knowledge is strong, it’ll snuff out the play, whereas the Falcons’ regular competition would have fallen prey to the designed play.
Even though the Pacific League part of the schedule doesn’t come around until January, the games in December still count toward the overall record. Next Monday through Thursday, Crescenta Valley is at Heritage Christian High School to play in the Heritage Classic.
The Falcons look small once again, but Zargarian seems tired of talking about his team’s lack of size. Center Ben Allen has left the team, leaving the Falcons with David Heckmann, who didn’t play in the alumni game due to a foot injury that could prohibit his availability for some time, Eric Yun and 6’4” junior center Austin Novak.
Zargarian was asked if he was still searching for more size.
“I would say at this point we’re not searching anymore,” he said. “We are what we are. We’ve coached the last four or five weeks in fall league playing with this type of size. We’re getting used to playing this way.”
He did admit he questioned whether the Falcons can finish off teams that are bigger than they, but that remains to be seen. Some of the bigger players from last season, Chris Reik, Gabe Ajemian and Arin Ovanessian, have graduated.
As it is, CV will rely on guard Trey Ballard, who gets enough credit for being a three-point threat but not enough in his ability to make the right pass or be in the right spot on almost every play.
The Falcons will also depend on Koko Kechichian, who came on strong last year and who played a key role in the Falcons advancing to the second round of the CIF playoffs. (The Falcons have moved down a division this season, from I-A to II-AA).
“What I do like a lot [about Kechichian] is he’s not trying to dominate the ball. He’s doing what the team needs him to do to win,” Zargarian said.
The offense will rely on quick ball movement and, when a player doesn’t hold the ball, he better be cutting or setting a screen. Zargarian thinks his team will be hard to guard if everyone is moving and doing something with a purpose. This style of play will, hopefully for Zargarian, back up his point about the lack of height not being problematic.
“It’s not a major issue,” he said. “Now on the boards, does it become an issue? Yes. But does it affect post-play? No, it’s not a major issue.”
There were some roster moves from this summer; some players quit, others were brought up to see how they could play at the varsity level, and then sent down. Now that the roster is back to 12 players, Zargarian feels his team is coming together.
“The more bodies you have, it affects team chemistry,” he said. “Now that we’ve slipped down to 12, our chemistry’s better, it’s more united; it’s more of a family-type atmosphere, and I think now they’re genuinely playing for each other.”
Lady Falcons Update
The CV varsity girls’ basketball team, the reigning Division 1-A champions who now reside in Division I-AA, defeated Flintridge Sacred Heart 67-39 in Tuesday’s opening game of the Falcon Tip-Off Classic. The girls received strong play from Georgina Kregorian, Kaitlyn Jabourian, Rachel Dayag, Senayt Tassew and Sarah Perez, who each scored 10 points.
The Falcons will rely on those players this year after losing key members Josie Brock and Alisa Shinn from last year’s team.