GLENDALE — For a group that has no varsity experience, the Crescenta Valley High boys’ junior varsity basketball team proved anything but a pushover when it competed Thursday in the first day of the Glendale College Classic summer league.
Originally, the school’s varsity squad was slated to participate in the four-day tournament, but the team also was committed to take part in a pair of tournaments in the San Fernando Valley. In stepped the junior varsity team, which captured the Pacific League championship last season.
Crescenta Valley’s young squad, featuring mostly sophomores, more than held its own in a 45-37 defeat against Grant at Glendale Community College.
“It’s a huge challenge, but I liked the way we stayed hungry and hung in there,” Crescenta Valley Coach Joe Maniccia said. “I felt like we went toe-to-toe with them.
“We found out a couple of weeks ago that we would be a part of the tournament.”
Crescenta Valley held a 37-33 lead with 7:20 remaining in the second half before Grant closed out on a 12-0 run.
Crescenta Valley received 14 points from David Heckmann and 11 from Trey Ballard. The Lancers held a 28-23 halftime advantage.
Heckmann, a sophomore forward, converted a layup to give the Falcons a 7-5 lead with 16:38 remaining in the first half. Grant then went on a 14-2 run to take a 19-9 lead with 11:31 left in the opening half.
“It’s great way to see how you can play at a higher level,” said Heckmann, who made a three-pointer to give the Falcons a 34-33 lead with 8:22 to go in the second half. “I can go out there and work on my post game and learn how to come off screens.
“You just try to go out there and be aggressive and see what can happen. I love the challenge of playing against older guys. It’s the only way you can get better and you just try to challenge yourself.”
Ballard, a sophomore guard, said he gained some valuable experience.
“It shows what you need to work on,” Ballard said. “It was a lot of fun to go out there and it gives me a lot of confidence.
“I felt like we had a chance to win. The closer the game stayed, the more we got excited.”
Ballard helped keep the Falcons within striking distance in the second half. He scored on a layup to pull Crescenta Valley to within 28-25 with 18:12 to play. Ballard then made a three-pointer from the left side to slice the deficit to 30-28 with 14:15 remaining.
“We were that close to overtaking them,” Heckmann said. “We had a good shot to win.”
Unfortunately for the Falcons, they ran out of steam while trying to overcome Grant’s experience.
Crescenta Valley will take part in a pair of games Friday at GCC. The Falcons will take on Burroughs at 5:45 p.m. and Mark Keppel at 7.
“It will be tough to play back-to-back games,” Maniccia said. “We expect it to be another challenge, but they won’t think twice.”
Crescenta Valley will take on L.A. Marshall at 11 a.m. Saturday and Alhambra at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Follow Charles Rich on Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich .