In reaching the CIF Southern Section Division I-A semifinal game for the second straight season, Crescenta Valley High boys’ basketball Coach Shawn Zargarian reflected on his team’s latest accomplishment.
Having lost 80% of last season’s starting lineup, it appeared to be a tall order for the Falcons to make another deep playoff run.
“I was telling the players that I couldn’t be more proud in terms of how far they have come,” Zargarian said. “We lost a lot of solid players, but there’s just something special about this team and what they’ve been able to get done this year.
“I haven’t seen something this special in quite a long time. We don’t have the offensive firepower that we had last year. This year, we try to find ways to manufacture points and we are better defensively.”
Fourth-seeded Crescenta Valley (23-7) will travel to face top-seeded El Toro (26-5) in a semifinal matchup at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The winner will meet second-seeded Santa Monica or sixth-seeded Dana Hills in the championship contest.
Senior guard Cole Currie, the team’s returning starter from a squad that advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 1994, enjoyed another big performance in putting the Falcons in line for a rematch with the Chargers. He finished with a game-high 27 points and nine rebounds Friday to lead the Falcons to a 68-54 quarterfinal home victory against Long Beach Millikan.
Currie said there are some similarities between this season’s and last season’s Falcons teams. However, the latter version has carved a new identity.
“Both teams were extremely close and there’s that camaraderie,” said Currie, who helped the Falcons finish second in the Pacific League. “On the court, last year’s team had good inside scoring, while this team relies more on the three-pointer.
“We’ve also changed our defense in terms of coverage. We like our chances. We just have to keep doing the things we’ve done well, and I think we play well on the road.”
Crescenta Valley and El Toro, which shared the South Coast League championship with Mission Viejo, are no strangers to each other. The teams met in the playoffs last season with Crescenta Valley earning a 61-49 quarterfinal win at home.
El Toro reached the semifinals Friday with a 70-64 quarterfinal victory against Corona Santiago. Ryan Roberts paced the Chargers with a team-best 18 points. El Toro has won six games in a row and is 13-1 in its last 14 contests.
Zargarian said the teams have some similarities.
“Physically, we match up with them in size,” Zargarian said. “We both shoot three-pointers and are guard-oriented teams.
“We know that we are going to have to run them off the three-point line. We are excited. We are not uncomfortable being on the road.”
Crescenta Valley junior guard Nick Springer said the Falcons relish another chance at trying to reach the championship game.
“We’ve worked hard to get here and we’ve done that by feeding off each other,” said Springer, who finished with 21 points against Millikan. “When we feed off one another, that’s when the energy level goes up and we can go on runs.
“It’s great to be back here again. We have to stay poised and just be locked in mentally.”