LA CRESCENTA — Crescenta Valley High boys’ basketball made history just by taking the court to host its first-round CIF State Southern California Regional Division III state playoff game against Bakersfield.
It was the first time the school hosted a state contest, but it did not stop there.
On the shoulders of a strong defensive effort, the Falcons kept in control throughout and surged to a 59-44 victory over the Drillers ion Tuesday.
“We look like a veteran team that is comfortable being out here,” Crescenta Valley coach Shawn Zargarian said.
It was also the first win for Crescenta Valley in the state playoffs in the program’s history.
“This is kind of uncharted territory for everyone here,” Falcons Tyler Carlson said. “I’m expecting a lot of battles. [We’ll take it] one game at a time.”
With the win, No. 6 seed Crescenta Valley (27-5) advances to the second round at 7 p.m. Thursday, when the Falcons will host Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara, the No. 14 seed, upset No. 3 seed Oxnard, 52-50, on Tuesday.
It was the Falcons’ exploits on defense that keyed the win over No. 11 seed Bakersfield (20-8).
“Defense was the reason we won,” Falcons Alex Zohouralen said. “We moved around a lot [and] hustled for everything. [The] 50/50 balls were ours. We were running around.”
The Falcons defense limited Bakersfield, which earned a berth in the state playoffs by way of a semifinal appearance in the CIF Central Section Division I playoffs, to just 11 points in the first and second quarters. In the third, the Drillers managed just nine points.
The Drillers seemed not to want to shoot from the outside, consistently turning down shots from long distance to drive inside. However, the majority of times the visitors knifed the lane they were met by a throng of Falcons and were unable to find quality shots.
“We were locked in from the very start. [Giving up just] 44 points is really good,” Carlson said. “Eleven in the first two quarters, that really set the tone. They couldn’t really shoot and we knew that, so we just tried to stop middle penetration.”
Crescenta Valley was led in scoring by Carlson with 19 points. Zohouralen was the other Falcon in double digits with 11 points. Harout Tahanian, Andreyas Boghossian and Danny Khani each had seven points. Bakersfield was led by David Whatley with 14 points.
Crescenta Valley doubled up Bakersfield in the second quarter, 22-11. Coming in, the Falcons held a mere one-point cushion, but they scored the first five points of the second to set the tone.
The hosts finished the half on a high note, scoring the final six points. Falcons Chucky Meyer hit a free throw and later a reverse layup before Zohouralen put the cherry on top. With the seconds ticking away, the senior fired in a three-pointer despite having to make a midair adjustment to get the shot off as the half came to a close.
“Everything is on the line right now. We’ve got to play at the highest [level] we can play,” Zohouralen said. “It was just very fun out there.”
The first quarter was a quirky one. Bakersfield scored the first four points before the Falcons scored all of their points in the quarter via a 12-0 run. Carlson led the way with eight of those points and an assist on two more. The Drillers then bounced back, scoring the last seven points of the opening quarter to make it 12-11.
Points were hard to come by for both teams in the third quarter, which Crescenta Valley won, 11-9. Carlson and Zohouralen had all of their team’s points. Zohouralen scored the first four with two makes from inside, both of which he muscled up among a host of Drillers defenders. Carlson scored the final seven points.
Crescenta Valley stayed in control throughout the fourth. The advantage crested at 21 points near the three-minute mark after a put-back by Meyer.
“For us we did a few things that were amazing with this game,” Zargarian said. “[We now have] the second most wins in school history with 27. Hosting and winning a state game at home has never been in the history of the program, so I was really happy with the way we came out.”