LA CRESCENTA — In what had been a game of runs all night, the Crescenta Valley High boys' basketball team sprinted to the finish.
The Falcons finally ran away with the game midway through the fourth quarter of Friday night's CIF Southern Section Division 1A quarterfinal against visiting El Toro, delighting their overflowing home crowd and claiming the program's first semifinal berth in 18 years with a 61-49 win.
Crescenta Valley (26-4) was led by a balanced attack, including 14 points from junior guard Cole Currie and 13 points from senior wing Davis Dragovich, but the biggest spark came from senior center Christian Misi, who had a breakout game with 15 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
"I just don't want to go home yet, I don't want to be done with the season," said Misi, whose Falcons will play host and top seed Mission Viejo, an 81-77 winner on Friday in overtime over West Ranch, at 7 p.m. Tuesday. "That's what was in my mind. That's why I stepped it up in the second half."
Misi hadn't played up to his usual level in the stat sheet over the Falcons' first two playoff wins and began Friday's game much the same way, making just one of five shots for two first-half points while playing with two fouls.
"Christian had a tough game in the first round ... then he had a tough one in the second round," Crescenta Valley Coach Shawn Zargarian said. "He was fired up and we knew he would come out today and he was going to make sure we won this game."
Misi came alive just when the Falcons needed it most, right as the Chargers had battled back from a six-point halftime deficit to take a 30-29 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.
"Coach always tells us basketball is a game of runs, they get their run, we know we're coming back," Misi said. "We don't back down when they come at us. We're tough, we're a resilient team, so we can handle that kind of thing."
On the Falcons' next possession, Misi found senior guard Tade Keshishyan for an open three-pointer in the corner to reclaim the lead and Misi fortified it with a three-pointer of his own at the 3:21 mark to make it 35-30. Thirty seconds later, Misi drove hard to the rim and drew a foul on El Toro center Jordan Faison (18 points), his third.
"Cole and Davis were hitting shots to open up opportunities for me on the weak side," Misi said. "I was just able to take advantage of them today. I hit a shot, got to the rim a couple of times, got [Faison] in foul trouble and so it just all worked out."
The Chargers pulled back to within one on a three-point play by junior guard Cody White (15 points) with 1:32 left in the third, but Currie popped back-to-back three-pointers down the stretch of the period to give the Falcons a 42-35 lead.
"We had so many guys step up on the offensive end," Zargarian said.
Misi continued to dominate the game early in the fourth, sticking a difficult spinning layup while being fouled and then grabbing a Currie miss out of the air and putting it back before hitting the ground to make it a 47-37 game.
"When things are going your way, it's always more fun," Misi said.
But the Chargers had one more push left and closed back to within six, at 49-43, at the 4:17 mark, moments after senior forward Rudy Avila (seven points), the Falcons' tallest player, had fouled out of the game. But Keshishyan checked in in his place as the Falcons were forced to go smaller and ended up being a huge difference-maker.
Keshishyan had a big steal and offensive rebound in the final minutes, where he also scored seven of his 10 points, none bigger than a wide-open baseline three-pointer with 3:21 left that put CV up, 52-43, and soon forced the Chargers to start fouling to stop the clock.
"We got so many stops [in the fourth quarter] consistently that were big," Currie said. "And then we just hit big shots.
"That three by Tade in the corner was huge. That was awesome."
In the first half, it was Davis keeping the Falcons alive, as he made his first four shots, including a pair of three-pointers. Davis sank a three to open up the Falcons' biggest lead of the first half, 19-11, capping a 7-0 run to start the second quarter. He also converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 1:30 left in the first half to put the Falcons up by six.
"Davis has so many responsibilities on this team," Currie said. "He's guarding the best guy on their team and he comes out and just plays every game."