LA CRESCENTA — A season that included 20 victories, an undefeated run through the second half of Pacific League play and a share of the program’s first league title since 2004 ended for the Crescenta Valley High boys’ basketball team Friday evening.
The underdog Falcons were just too undersized versus Trinity League-power Orange Lutheran in falling in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA playoffs, 59-49.
“Hey, this is a great team that we played and they come from a very, very difficult league,” Falcons Coach Shawn Zargarian said. “You look at their size, too.
“Sometimes teams exaggerate or add a little on their roster, but this team was certainly as big as advertised and that was a lot for us to overcome.”
The Lancers (14-14), who earned advancement to Tuesday’s second round versus top-ranked Long Beach Poly, boasted three players 6-foot-6 or taller in the starting lineup and seven athletes overall.
Crescenta Valley, which capped its season with a 20-9 mark, only had one such player in senior forward Eric Patten, who turned in another gritty performance in scoring a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds.
“This level of intensity that Orange Lutheran brought was just different than what we’ve seen all year,” Patten said. “When you play teams like Mater Dei in your league, you’re really not going to be intimidated.”
Crescenta Valley trailed, 48-36, to start the third quarter and trimmed a point off its deficit before Lancers junior CJ Hawkins delivered a staggering blow when the guard beat two defenders in the paint and scooped a high-arcing finger roll while crashing into Patten.
The shot scored and Patten was called for his fourth foul with 5:53 left in the game as Orange Lutheran took a 51-38 lead after a Hawkins’ missed free throw.
The bucket keyed a game-clinching 8-0 run capped on a slashing layup from junior guard Rogers Printup (17 points and seven rebounds) with 1:48 left that gave Orange Lutheran a 57-38 advantage.
While Orange Lutheran’s offense perked up late, the Lancers’ close-out defense presented problems all evening for Falcons shooters.
Overall, Crescenta Valley shot six for 24 (25%) from behind the arc as the size advantage forced several difficult shots for the Falcons.
“We were aware of [Patten] and what type of player he was,” Orange Lutheran Coach Chris Nordstrom said. “We knew he would be able to create offense for himself. Our focus was to take away that three-point line because we were well aware of how deadly this team is from deep.”
Orange Lutheran only led, 13-10, after one quarter, but created immediate separation by scoring the first seven points of the second in going up, 20-10, after a breakaway layup from Printup thanks to a steal and assist from Joel Debus with 5:34 left.
Yet, Crescenta Valley answered with back-to-back three pointers from Eric Bae, the second that brought the home team within 20-16.
“I didn’t think their defense was all that different from Pasadena’s or Muir’s,” said Bae, who finished with 11 points. “We just didn’t make good decisions.”
Crescenta Valley never pulled any closer than four points again and the Lancers eventually led, 31-21, at the half.
While the Falcons climbed within 37-32 with 4:25 left in the third on an up-and-under two-footer from Patten, Orange Lutheran scored the next four points before going up by 12 after three quarters.
“I told the guys after the game that I was really proud of them,” Zargarian said. “We battled today like we did all year. We were the underdog today like we were for most of the year.
“The difference tonight is that Orange Lutheran was just a lot bigger team than we could handle.”