Mustangs pull away from Falcons

LA CRESCENTA — The top two teams in the Pacific League boys' basketball standings are set for a collision course on rivalry Friday at Pasadena High.

That's because visiting Muir High used a fourth-quarter surge to defeat the league's other potential league-title challenger, Crescenta Valley, 76-56 on Tuesday afternoon.

The victory sets up a showdown between CIF Southern Section Division III-AA second-ranked Pasadena (13-5 overall, 6-0 in league), the nine-time defending league champion, and archrival and Division IV-AA No. 10-ranked Muir (17-1, 6-0) Friday at 5 p.m.

"Our overall defense and willingness to run and push the ball up the floor was the key," Muir Coach Gamal Smalley said. "We got easy baskets."

The game turned in the closing minutes of the third quarter.

Crescenta Valley (15-4, 4-2), ranked sixth in Division I-A, trimmed the score to 45-39 on two free throws from senior Christian Misi with 1:40 left.

Yet, Muir countered with a swooping layup from sophomore Brian Carrier, created off an assist from Jelani Mitchell, followed by a three-pointer from senior guard Dion Nelson that put the visitors up, 50-39, with 39 seconds left.

Crescenta Valley got its deficit back under single-digits with a 14-footer from Cole Currie before the quarter closed.

Currie then hit a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter.

The field goal, however, was waved off because of an offensive foul, which led to a six-point swing as Mitchell drained a three-pointer off an assist from Nelson to put Muir ahead, 53-41, with 7:30 left in the game.

The turnover was a harbinger for the Falcons, who turned the ball over three times in their first six possessions, as Muir scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter and went ahead, 60-41, with 5:15 left.

"[Muir] was just hungrier. Their guys were relentless on the glass and were whooping their tails off," Crescenta Valley Coach Shawn Zargarian said. "I felt like our guys were watching balls where their guys were pursuing and going after it. They outplayed us."

A free throw from Davis Dragovich followed by a three-pointer from Dylan Kilgour with 4:01 left brought the Falcons within 62-47.

Yet, Muir answered with a four-footer from Carrier that preceded a dunk from Michael Cockrell with 3:14 remaining.

"We just ran and stuck to the game plan and played hard," said Nelson, who scored nine points. "We're a team. We don't care who scores, we just want the 'W.'"

Crescenta Valley trailed, 32-27, at the half, but opened the third quarter with a steal from Kilgour that led to a layup from Dragovich.

Yet, Muir scored six of the next eight points to go up seven and never looked back.

"We talked about the same thing at halftime. The same thing with Pasadena," said Zargarian, whose team trailed by seven at halftime Friday versus Pasadena before losing the game by 21 points. "We said, 'Let's come out and clean up some of this stuff that we're not doing well and we come out and we're worse at it.'"

Mitchell led Muir with 20 points and five assists, while Andre Frazier (16 points and 11 rebounds), Carrier (12 points and eight rebounds) and Taturs Mayberry (nine points) contributed solid games.

Misi finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Falcons. Dragovich scored 11 and Currie added 10 points and three steals.

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