BURBANK — It wasn’t revenge that fueled the Crescenta Valley High boys’ basketball team to a resounding victory against Burbank on Friday.
Days prior to the game, the Falcons received word that former teammate Noah Domingo, a UC Irvine freshman, died after an off-campus party.
The news hit the team hard, especially junior Tyler Carlson, who was close to Domingo.
Carlson scored the team’s first basket and finished with a game-high 22 points to lead Crescenta Valley to a 63-45 victory against host Burbank in Pacific League play Friday.
The junior dedicated his performance to his late teammate.
“[Coach Shawn Zargarian] really rallied us in the locker room saying, ‘Play for Noah,’” Carlson said. “He was the smallest guy with the biggest heart, so that made this game super important to us because it was our first game with the patches and our first game to honor him.
“Tonight just felt fantastic, other than the fact we just lost someone. This was an honor for him. We have these patches tonight and last time we honored him with some banners and stuff. Tonight was an escape for all of us, I felt like. It was just really fun to be out there.”
In the team’s first meeting on Dec. 14, Burbank came away with a 74-72 win at Crescenta Valley after the Bulldogs set up a lengthy scoring run at the start of the game.
This time, the teams struggled to score in the first three minutes of play, as Crescenta Valley tried to overcome turnover problems, while Burbank tried to win a battle against its own rims.
“Nothing to take away from Burbank the first time they played us,” Crescenta Valley coach Shawn Zargarian said. “They kicked our tail for most of the game, but the way we played in the fourth quarter of that game was really how we expected to play throughout.
“Although we lost, we knew there were areas that if we cleaned up, we could be in a good position. I thought the biggest adjustment we made tonight was our defensive effort. I thought our guys stayed attached on screens, we fought over the top on ball screens, we occupied space and we didn’t give them any uncontested threes.”
Carlson’s three-pointer with 4:58 left set up a 7-1 run for the Falcons (18-4, 7-3 in league), who closed the first quarter with a 16-6 lead.
“Yeah we weren’t scoring, but because we were guarding it, it didn’t necessarily put too much pressure on us to score,” Zargarian said. “Once we saw a couple going, we started rolling and did OK.”
Carlson finished the first quarter with eight points and the first half with 13.
Crescenta Valley junior Danny Khani finished with 15 points, 10 of which came in the third quarter on three consecutive three-pointers. Khani also posted eight rebounds, while Falcons center Chucky Meyer led the team with 12 rebounds.
“We just decided to take away [their] threes,” Carlson said. “We only gave up six that whole quarter. That set the tone of the rest of the game.”
For Burbank (14-9, 5-5), senior forward Erik Harutyunyan led the way with 13 points and was followed by junior guard Leo Tahmasian (12 points and five assists).
“You have to step up, you have to defend,” Burbank coach Ernest Baskerville said. “We knew things that they were going to do, just like they knew things that we were going to do. It’s the fact that they hit shots and we didn’t hit shots. That’s what it comes down to.”
The Bulldogs cut the Falcons’ lead to 18-11, when senior Miles D’Agostin hit a three-pointer at 6:43 in the second quarter.
With 1:24 left, Burbank junior Ben Burnham knocked down a pair of free throws to make it a 28-22 deficit, the closest Burbank would get.
“I always felt like we have a chance no matter what because we have a shooter’s chance,” Baskerville said. “Just like a puncher’s chance. Like a knock out in a championship fight, somebody’s going to have a chance to do that. I thought we did well defensively in the first half; in the second half, we just fell apart, defensively.”
The Falcons led, 31-22, at halftime, and then opened the second half with five consecutive points to restore their double-digit lead.
Harutyunyan went on his own 6-0 scoring run at 5:10 in the third to slice Crescenta Valley’s lead to 37-28, but a pair of post-plays from Falcons senior Harout Tahanian negated the Bulldogs senior’s efforts.
Khani knocked down his first three-pointer of the third quarter at the two-minute mark and hit two more in a span of 28 seconds to give the Falcons a 52-35 lead heading into the final quarter.