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Boys' Basketball Preview: St. Monica Academy brimming with confidence

Boys' Basketball Preview: St. Monica Academy brimming with confidence
The St. Monica Academy boys' basketball team will return Charlie Boles, center, to a squad that reached the Division V-a semifinals last season. (Dan Watson)

The St. Monica Academy boys’ basketball team made a name for itself last season.

The Crusaders had an exceptional season in which they advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division V-A semifinals and reached the Division V state playoffs. St. Monica lost to Duarte in both tournaments, yet gained plenty of valuable experience in its quest to continue its rise.

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Flintridge Prep was the other area squad to win a league title, sharing the Prep League crown with rival Pasadena Poly. Crescenta Valley and Glendale qualified for the playoffs last season and bring back some key players.

St. Francis, Hoover and Glendale Adventist Academy didn’t make the playoffs and will look to reverse course.

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Six of the seven coaches from 2018 will return to the sideline this year.

In addition, the CIF Southern Section office realigned the divisions in the fall, leading to many teams moving to new divisions

Here is a closer look at the teams.

ST. MONICA ACADEMY

Under coach Peter Grimm, the Crusaders enjoyed an historic 2018 season. Grimm, the reigning All-Area Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year, piloted the Crusaders to the program's first 20-win campaign as the team advanced to the semifinals for the first time in school history.

St. Monica went 21-6 following another first when it advanced to the CIF State tournament.

Still, there’s room for the program to grow

“What we were able to do last year was big for the school and a lot of people now know about our program,” Grimm said. “It’s led to a lot of optimism from our kids and they are all that much more hungrier to do even better.

“It’s a challenge, but one that the guys are taking to heart. There’s a lot of intensity and people will be coming after us. Plus, we’ll be returning several key players.”

The Crusaders (21-6, 6-0 in league last season) bring back senior forward Charlie Boles, senior guard Francis Mirales and junior guard Ernie Grimm. Boles received All-CIF first-team accolades after averaging 12 points and six rebounds in the playoffs.

The Crusaders will join Division IV-A.

“We got moved up, but we’re not afraid of that,” Grimm said. “It’s all about staying hungry and wanting to put together another big season.”

FLINTRIDGE PREP

Winning league championships and making deep postseason runs have become staples throughout the century for the Rebels.

Flintridge Prep made it to the second round of the Division IV-AA playoffs before succumbing to champion Hiillcrest. The Rebels (14-12, 7-1) have appeared in two finals since the 2010-11 campaign.

The Prep League will look different this season with the addition of Providence.

“We had a bit of a rough season at times last year, but we were able to win league,” said Flintridge Prep coach Garrett Ohara, who begins his 20th season as coach of the Rebels. “I do love this group now and we’ve got a very good mix of younger players.

“With Providence coming in, it’s going to make for some good battles around our league. I’m thinking Pasadena Poly, Providence and Flintridge Prep will be battling it out for league.”

Flintridge Prep, which will be in Division IV-AA, will turn to senior forward AJ Nicassio and sophomore guard Zach Kim for experience and leadership.The duo received all-league second-team recognition last season after averaging 6.2 and 4.4 points per game, respectively.

CRESCENTA VALLEY

Crescenta Valley won 16 games, took third in the Pacific League and registered a postseason win, advancing to the second round of the Division II-A playoffs last season. The Falcons fell to Riverside Poly, which lost to San Marcos in the finals.

Crescenta Valley (16-13, 8-6) lost scoring dynamo Arman Pezeshkian to graduation. Pezeshkian averaged an area-leading 25.3 points per game and broke the school record for most three-pointers in a season with 102 en route to picking up All-CIF accolades and being named the All-Area Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year.

Things will be considerably different for the Falcons, who remain in Division II-A.

“We’re not really a veteran team,” Crescenta Valley coach Shawn Zargarian said. “We don’t have someone like Arman who can score in bunches, so we’ll be looking to get a lot of contributions from different people at different positions.We’ll have a couple of guys who can play with their backs to the basket.

“I think our league will be good once again and it’s earned a little more respect over the last few years.”

Crescenta Valley will turn to senior guard/forward Andrew Boghossian, junior forward Chuck Meyer and junior guards Tyler Carlson and Danny Khani.

GLENDALE

The Nitros finished tied for fifth in the Pacific League and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in three seasons after going 18-10, 6-8. Glendale lost in the first round of the Division III-A playoffs to second-seeded Culver City.

Still, steps were made in shaping the program’s foundation under coach Ib Belou. Belou would like to see the Nitros, now in Division III-A, continue to improve in league and return to the playoffs.

“We have six seniors, so we’ll be leaning on them for leadership and skill,” Belou said. “For our guys to be successful, they’ll have to do their jobs at both ends of the court and do it well.

“We know our league will continue to be tough, but we know we can do better. All hands are on deck with our guys and all they can control is their effort.”

Glendale will bring back senior guards Cole Fajardo and Johnny Mansuryan and junior guard David Shamiryan.

ST. FRANCIS

Since Todd Wolfson took over the coaching chores at St. Francis in 2015, the Golden Knights have qualified for the playoffs twice. St. Francis missed out last season following a last-place finish in the Mission League.

Wolfson said the Golden Knights (14-14, 2-10) are capable of turning things around quickly.

“Something we’ve seen since the start of the fall is that the guys are clicking and there’s a lot of energy,” said Wolfson, whose team will be in Division III-A. “We don’t really set too many goals and we just want to be ready heading into the gauntlet of the Mission League.

“I always look at the league as being one of the toughest with the likes of Loyola, Harvard-Westlake and others. When you come to St. Francis, you sign up to play the best competition.”

There’s talent around the court for the Golden Knights, who will return senior center Matthew Molina, senior guard Dennis Flowers III and junior guard Andre Henry.

Henry contributed 16.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game and was named to the All-Area second team last season. Flowers averaged 17.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per contest. The duo picked up all-league honors as well.

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HOOVER

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Hoover encountered a tough season in 2018, winning just five games and placing last in the Pacific League.

Veteran Hoover coach Jack Van Patten would like to see the Tornadoes (5-22, 1-13) head in the other direction.

“I think we do have the potential to be better this year,” Van Patten said. “it’s going to be one of the smaller teams we’ve had in quite a while.

“The key will be to do a much better job at moving the ball around and playing a lot better defense.”

Expected to pave the way for Hoover will be senior guard/forward Karo Darmandzhyan, senior guard Davit Pirijanyan and junior guard Derrick Eliasi.

Hoover last qualified for the postseason in 2015. The Tornadoes are in Division IV-AA.

GLENDALE ADVENTIST ACADEMY

Things will look a bit different for the Cougars, starting at the top. Glendale Adventist will be coached by Chris Lindstadt, who takes over for Marton Medina. Lindstadt also serves as the school’s athletic director.

Glendale Adventist finished last in the Independence League in 2018 at 5-14, 1-0 in league. It will now compete in the Liberty League and reside in Division V-A.

“We have 12 players, but pretty much no returning starters,” Lindstadt said. “We have four or five returners, though none of them really had significant minutes played.

“It comes down to hustling and just keep the learning curve moving.”

The Cougars will return junior guard/forward Nick Dorsey and junior guard Andrew Flores.

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