In its first two playoff games, the Crescenta Valley High boys' basketball team has survived by finishing games strong, but the Falcons' overall job is far from finished.
Fourth-seeded Crescenta Valley (25-4) will look to extend its CIF Southern Section Division 1-A postseason run when it hosts No. 5 seed El Toro (22-8) at 7 p.m. today in the quarterfinal round, the first time the Falcons have made it this far since 2000.
"We've been drawing a great crowd at home," Falcons Coach Shawn Zargarian said. "There's a good buzz around campus, there's a good buzz around the community. I think people are starting to enjoy watching us play. I think it will be a nice atmosphere here Friday."
Although the Falcons have been in some tight situations at times over the first two rounds, they've owned the fourth quarter, if not the second half altogether in wins over Colton in the first round on Feb. 17 and Warren in the second round on Tuesday, which was the team's 10th win in its last 11 games.
"I think the key for us in our last two games has been our defensive presence," said Zargarian, whose team finished runner-up in the Pacific League. "When we've been able to be really fundamentally sound defensively, communicate and rotate, it's led to a lot of runouts and easy baskets for us."
The key on defense for Crescenta Valley today will be rotating and closing out quickly against the Chargers' inside-out ball movement scheme revolving around 6-foot-6 senior center Jordan Faison, who can score down low or find an open shooter on the perimeter if the Falcons don't anticipate well enough.
"It's going to be a big challenge because they've got some size and they've got guards outside that can play pretty well," Falcons forward Christian Misi said. "We're just going to have to stay solid, get some good closeouts and stay sharp.
"It's going to be tough, but I think if we focus and don't come out slow we should be fine."
The Falcons can also get points inside or outside at the other end, with size in the paint with Misi, Davis Dragovich and Rudy Avila, while the former two are versatile enough to score from anywhere on the floor. The Falcons have a strong starting backcourt, as well, with crack-shot Dylan Kilgour and Cole Currie, who can pull up from the outside or slash his way to the rim.
"They play a little 2-3 matchup zone," Zargarian said of El Toro, which placed third in the South Coast League before opening the playoffs with wins over Cabrillo and Huntington Beach, "so for us to be patient and move the ball will be really key against that."
Guard play has been especially big for the Falcons in the playoffs, as Kilgour led the way with 19 points and five three-pointers in the 67-55 win over Warren after Currie's 21 points on five threes were both team highs in the 74-66 win over Colton.
"All year we've been big in having five guys who are capable of scoring in double figures, and in the last few games we've been fortunate to have at least three guys who were scoring in double figures," Zargarian said. "It spreads out the defense and allows us to take advantage of mismatches."