LA CRESCENTA — On an evening when the shots didn’t drop, the Crescenta Valley High’s boys’ basketball team fell in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs on Wednesday.
Visiting Whittier rode the hot hand of senior Spencer Torres, who scored a game-high 27 points, as the Falcons were defeated, 64-49, in a game they trailed wire-to-wire.
The loss marked the third time in the last four seasons the Falcons (18-9), who finished third in the Pacific League, have been eliminated in the first round, though they advanced to the second round last season.
“I thought Whittier did a great job tonight controlling the tempo and we never really got into a real flow,” Crescenta Valley Coach Shawn Zargarian said. “One of our strengths is being able to string stops and get into transition. That didn’t happen.
“We missed a [lot] of shots. I don’t know what our shooting percentage was, but we didn’t hit free throws and lay-ups. When you miss that, that’s the game.”
Crescenta Valley finished five for 24 (21%) from behind the three-point line and was 18 for 30 (60%) from the charity stripe.
While Del Rio League fourth-place Whittier (17-11) struggled worse from the free-throw line in finishing 15 for 26 (58%), the Cardinals hit on nine of 20 (45%) triples.
Crescenta Valley was led by senior Trey Ballard, who had 18 points. Seniors Koko Kechichian and Journey Shank added 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Torres was the catalyst for his team’s success, as the Cardinals small forward hit eight of 10 three-pointers, which proved devastating.
“I was open and my teammates did a great job finding me,” Torres said. “It’s a good feeling to get this win. It’s amazing.”
Crescenta Valley trailed, 39-35, after three quarters and was within 44-39 after a pair of free throws from Ballard with 6:16 left.
Whittier responded with a 6-0 spurt created on three-pointers from Alex Rodriguez (16 points) and Torres to put the Cardinals up, 50-39, with 4:24 remaining.
While Kechichian responded with two free throws, Torres drained another three-pointer with 2:44 left to give Whittier its biggest lead of 53-41.
Crescenta Valley never cut its deficit to less than 12 the rest of the way.
“Our offense just never really got going,” Ballard said. “We were in the 40s, so you know we struggled. We also didn’t make the stops on defense to help our offense.”
Torres hits two threes early in the first quarter as Whittier raced to a 10-2 lead with 5:03 left in the frame.
Crescenta Valley rallied behind three points each from Kechichian and Ballard to close to trailing, 13-10, after one quarter.
Whittier took a 23-14 lead midway through the second quarter after a three-pointer from Torres, before Crescenta Valley shaved off two points to trail, 27-20, at the break.
Crescenta Valley’s best quarter was the third, as a three-pointer from Ballard brought the Falcons within 34-32 with 4:04 remaining.
Whittier never allowed the Falcons to tie and finished leading, 39-35, after three.
“Honestly, we tried to do our best and we played our hardest, but Whittier made all their shots today,” Kechichian said. “Our shots weren’t going in. I don’t know if we were rushed or not focused. It just didn’t work.”