LA CRESCENTA — It was far from pretty and likely won't be remembered as a classic, but when its all said and done in February, Wednesday's showdown between host Crescenta Valley High and Pasadena may be looked back on as one of the biggest keys to the Pacific League boys' basketball season.
The Falcons and Bulldogs entered the contest as two of the last three undefeated teams in league, but, frankly, didn't look like top contenders for the title right up until the end of the gritty 39-37 affair, which was fittingly decided on a cobbled-together play that resulted in the winning basket on Pasadena's last possession.
"It's so frustrating," Crescenta Valley Coach Shawn Zargarian said after watching his team hold the defending league champions to 22% shooting from the field, only to see his own squad go 11 for 31 (35%) and turn the ball over a devastating 20 times. "You hold a team in the 30s at the varsity level and not pull out a 'W.' We played pretty good defense, they played pretty good defense, it was a battle of one possession and they came up with one big possession."
Pasadena swingman Todd Lewis had a particularly rough two-for-14 shooting night, but his second basket of the game was the difference. On a possession that began with 23 seconds left and the shot clock off, Lewis nearly fumbled away an exchange with Austin Daniels and then almost lost his footing while trying to secure the ball.
But after regaining his composure, Lewis ran the clock down inside 10 seconds and made his move into the paint, where he drove into contact and released a floater with about seven seconds left that tickled the rim for a few more precious ticks before going in with 2.4 seconds remaining.
The play came on the heels of a spinning turnaround jumper by Christian Misi that tied the game with 55 seconds left. Misi led the Falcons with 13 points, all coming in the second half.
The game was neck-and-neck from the beginning, as neither team was able to snap out of its offensive malaise. Crescenta Valley didn't score until five minutes had elapsed in the game, but still escaped the first quarter leading, 6-5, and by halftime the game was tied at 14.
The Falcons made a little surge early in the third with back-to-back three-pointers by Dylan Kilgour (11 points) and led by as many as six. But that lead was down to one by the beginning of the fourth quarter, which featured several lead changes and ties.
"We did a good job defensively, but we didn't execute on offense," Zargarian said. "We did not get good looks offensively."