PASADENA — There was plenty for both the Crescenta Valley and Muir high boys' basketball teams to prove to themselves and the rest of the Pacific League when they opened league play Friday night at Muir High.
The Falcons were the ones who spoke louder, letting their three-point shooting and standout guard Cole Currie do the talking as they went onto the Mustangs' home court and knocked them off, 68-60.
“It's a huge win for us,” Crescenta Valley Coach Shawn Zargarian said. “We talked to our guys about the fact that Muir was the only team that got us twice last year in league so we had a little payback here for our seniors.”
As expected, Currie carried most of the burden offensively, scoring a game-high 29 points but still got plenty of help from his teammates, especially Nick Springer, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Currie sent all the praise to his teammates and their ability to set screens and makes passes.
“They were just finding me,” Currie said. “I hit a couple of threes early and we all did a really good job of setting screens and finding each other.”
The Falcons made nine three-pointers on the night with five players hitting at least one shot from deep.
“We shoot the three,” Zargarian said. “There's no hiding what we do offensively, we're setting screens and trying to get the three-ball up as much as we can. We believe we have five guys on the floor who can shoot it so we try to expose that.”
It was a statement win for the Falcons (10-4), who graduated four of their five starters from last year – a team that placed second in league and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I-A semifinals.
“There's all this hype going on about how our team from last year, since all our seniors left, we're nothing,” said Springer, who got hot and scored 10 of his 13 points in less than a three-minute span the third quarter. “This was big tonight.”
Muir looked to be headed on a deep playoff run itself last year until it was ruled just before the playoffs an ineligible player had participated in most of those games. The Mustangs had to vacate the league title they earned and missed out on the playoffs.
Muir (7-8) is looking to get back in the postseason under new coach Simaine Stewart, who said it's going to take time for his team to come together.
“It's the second game we've had everybody back together,” said Stewart, citing the Mustangs’ best player and reigning league MVP Jelani Mitchell being out for two and a half weeks with an injury and point guard Evan Bynum just becoming eligible after transferring from Marshall Fundamental. “I believe we played hard tonight and we're going to do better.”
Down double-digits and sensing time running out Friday night, Mitchell kept his team in the game when he pulled up for a deep three-pointer to cut the deficit to seven, 45-38, with 46 seconds left in the third.
CV's Arin Pezeshkian (seven points, two threes) answered with a three of his own before Mitchell (14 points) kept the Falcons' lead at single-digits, 48-40, when he banked in a fall-away jumper just before the third-quarter buzzer sounded.
Taturs Mayberry (10 points, 10 rebounds) cut the lead to as little as six, 48-42, when the Muir forward hit a hook shot off an offensive rebound to open the fourth. CV's Ryan Schloessmann (six points, seven rebounds) dropped in a corner three to push the Falcons' advantage back to 52-42 a few plays later.
“They shot the ball exceptionally well; they flat out did us up,” Stewart said. “That's all I can say, kudos to them.”
It was a pair of conventional three-point plays from Crescenta Valley that served as the dagger to Muir, though.
First it was Currie drawing contact, laying one up and in and converting at the line to keep the Falcons lead at 10, 57-47, with 4:36 to go. The bucket came less than 20 seconds after Bynum (13 points) converted an and-one opportunity of his own.
Schloessmann made prospects of a Muir comeback dim when he got three points off an and-one play with 3:21 to go. It came on an inbound play, as Schloessmann streaked straight down the court, catching Muir's full-court pressure defense by surprise and taking a pass from CV's Kris Jaborian (five points, seven rebounds) in stride before laying it on with a Mustang draped all over him.
The Falcons also got eight points and four rebounds from Elliot Wilson, while the Mustangs got 13 points and seven boards from Dejon Williams.
Currie notched CV's final eight points of the game – two coming on a backdoor layup with 2:30 to go and the rest coming at the line, as his six-for-seven free-throw shooting in the final 1:24 sealed the game.
“He made the right passes, made the right decisions,” Zargarian said of Currie. “It's just a sign of a senior who's been starting for four years, how far he's coming and how much better he's gotten.”