Falcons staged classic CIF comeback win for top game

The top 10 high school games from the 2011-12 season were selected by the sports writers of the Glendale News-Press.

1 Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer defeats Salesian in overtime, 3-2, Feb. 23

The Falcons' thrill ride to their first-ever CIF Southern Section division title contained no shortage of cliffhangers, but none so hair-raising as the quarterfinals of the Division IV playoffs.

After being shut out in the first half, Salesian scored two unanswered second-half goals to take a 2-1 lead with six minutes left in regulation. A lengthy chunk of stoppage time extended Crescenta Valley's hopes of rallying, but thing still looked grim for the Falcons when 12 minutes went by without the tying goal.

Falcons Coach Grant Clark summoned goalkeeper Nick Ruiz to move up and play the field in a last-ditch effort to score the equalizer, a gambit that worked to perfection a few moments later when Ruiz controlled a deflected ball off a throw-in and buried a goal from 15 yards out to force overtime.

"I had to go for it because I had nothing to lose," Ruiz said. "It's about finding a way to win and we have a lot of heart and experience."

Another miraculous bounce gave CV the win in the third minute of overtime, as Alex Berger found Erick Trejo with a corner kick that hit Trejo in the chest before appearing to glance off a Salesian defender and into the net.

"We kept pushing in the end, and our coaches kept driving it," Trejo said. "I could see the ball and it hit me."

2 Hoover boys' water polo gets second life against Palm Desert, 16-15, Nov. 12, 2011

No one seemed to quite know what was going on in the chaotic moments following what was thought to be the final buzzer of the CIF Division IV quarterfinal match at Burbank High, except perhaps for Tornadoes Coach Kevin Witt.

Witt alertly made his way to the scorer's table to protest a timekeeping error that had allowed Palm Desert to run out the shot and game clock simultaneously despite a .13 second differential.

In a surreal scene, Palm Desert was ordered to stop celebrating, get back in the pool and replay the final 30 seconds. It still seemed fairly hopeless for the Tornadoes, as Palm Desert needed only to run off 30 seconds again and defend for .13 seconds. But then the unthinkable happened, as Palm Desert took an ill-advised shot and missed, giving All-Area Player of the Year Hakop Kaplanyan plenty of time to play the hero.

Kaplanyan calmly drilled a goal out of a timeout to send the match to overtime, which quickly became a tug of war. Kaplanyan ended up sinking the game-winner, as well, inside of the final six seconds, sending the Tornadoes to the first semifinal appearance in program history.

"As tired as you're going to be, you just have to give it your best because you never know when it's going to be your last game," Kaplanyan said. "I just [stayed] calm. Every time you're more calm, you get more shots off and you play your own game."

3 Crescenta Valley girls' water polo beats Los Altos in CIF quarterfinals, 14-13, Feb. 18, 2012

Los Altos appeared to have ended the Falcons' season with their first loss in the Division V quarterfinals, but Crescenta Valley played on.

The reward was a second straight trip to the semifinals.

What appeared initially to be a buzzer-beating game-winner by the Conquerors was actually a shot-clock violation, giving the Falcons a little under a minute to come up with their own sudden-death goal.

During a man-advantage, Shannon Hovanesian took an assist from Nayiri Kechichian and scored to end a thrilling match played out over four tense quarters and a pair of overtime sessions prior to the sudden-death stanza.

Crescenta Valley couldn't hold a 7-5 halftime lead or a 12-11 lead near the end of regulation, nor was a 13-12 advantage safe in the first half of overtime, which ended with Crescenta Valley missing a potential go-ahead goal of the side off the cage.

"We just rely on each other and you have different pieces that step up," said Falcons Coach Pete Loporchio, who got four goals from Sabrina Hatzer, three goals and four steals from daughter Stefanie, a goal, five steals, two assists and two field blocks from Breanna Lawton and three steals from Katie Benson. "These kind of games are character builders."

4 Crescenta Valley boys' basketball defeats Pasadena, 61-60, Feb. 3

Falcons Coach Shawn Zargarian had never defeated CV's Pacific League rival Bulldogs in his seven years as head coach.

Christian Misi changed that when he delivered an upset win over Pasadena by drilling a three-pointer with six seconds left in the game to cap the scoring and the last-minute comeback.

It looked like the Falcons were headed for another loss against the Bulldogs, who had defeated them, 80-59, earlier in the year and sent Brandon Jolley to the free-throw line with 37 seconds left and a 60-58 edge. Jolley missed the free throw, but it was rebounded by Blake Hamilton, who called a quick timeout.

Pasadena failed to inbound the ball within five seconds, which turned the ball over to Crescenta Valley to give Misi, who finished with 19 points and three three-pointers, his shot at a win.

"He's the reigning league MVP, so why not give him a shot at it?," said Zargarian, whose team handed the eventual CIF Division III-AAA-champion Bulldogs just their second loss in their last 16 games. "He had a hand in his face, and I wasn't sure if it might be blocked when it left his hand.

"I've been challenging them all year on having the ability to play through adversity. I'm so proud of them to fight back."

5 Crescenta Valley boys' volleyball defeats LA Baptist, 3-2, May 8

It appeared the Falcons CIF Division III playoff run was doomed almost as quickly as it started when they dropped the first two games to the host Knights.

Crescenta Valley dropped the first two games by just three points each with LA Baptist winning with identical scores of 25-22 to take a commanding 2-0 lead.

With their backs up against the wall, the Falcons rallied for a 25-20 win in the third game and a commanding 25-14 victory in the fourth set, which allowed CV's Wesley Cormier to take over in the fifth and deciding game.

"It's pretty much all mental," said Cormier, who had 11 kills and three aces. "We knew what we needed to do. We played our game, passed better and ran some set plays. We felt like we had the momentum going into the last game."

With the score knotted at 12 in the final game, Cormier dropped in two aces in a row to force match point and a LA Baptist hitting error secured the come-from-behind victory and put the Falcons into the second round for the first time in a long time.

6 Crescenta Valley boys' soccer defeats Oak Hills, 1-1 (5-3), Feb. 28

There were a number of narrow victories in CV's race to a CIF title. None more so than its semifinal victory over the Bulldogs, who'd advanced to the title round in 2009 and 2010, on penalty kicks.

The Falcons' only goal in regulation also came on a penalty kick after Pavle Atanackovic earned a penalty kick in the 48th minute and buried it for the first goal of the game. Sage Smith tied the score for Oak Hills in the 55th minute.

Salar Hajimirsadeghi nearly ended the game for Crescenta Valley in the 76th minute, but his shot was just wide of the right post, as the game went into overtime and eventually penalties.

Hajimirsadeghi didn't miss his second shot at sending the Falcons into the Division IV final with top-seeded El Rancho, as he buried his penalty shot to secure the win after Atanackovic, Alex Berger, Tony Royer and Michael Shahnazarians converted their kicks and Ruiz blocked an Oak Hills shot.

"You don't know how great it is to see that we are going to CIF," Hajimirsadeghi said. "I just can't believe it.

"We'd been practicing penalty kicks [Monday]. You never know when they will play a role [in a match]. You know that you have to be prepared, just in case."

7 St. Francis soccer defeats Upland, 4-3, Feb. 16

In six minutes, the Golden Knights' first round CIF Division I playoff game took a drastic turn in their favor.

St. Francis trailed the host Highlanders by two after it gave up two first-half goals, but took a lead, 3-2, with 24 minutes remaining.

Austin Frank sparked the rally with a goal in the 29th minute, quickly after he returned to action in the second half after sitting out 30 minutes of the first with a foot injury.

Five minutes later, St. Francis got an equalizing goal from Billy McCreary on a cross from Matt Laterza. McCreary gave the Knights their first lead of the game after Eric Bocanegra played a ball up high that the Upland goalie went up for but dropped with McCreary pressuring, which allowed the senior forward to score on an open net.

Brookes Treidler provided the winner for St. Francis on a deep throw-in from Derek Bell after the Highlanders knotted the score on a corner kick.

"It's not a good feeling [being down by two goals], but they say the most dangerous lead in soccer is 2-0, because you score once and then the momentum changes. That's really what happened," Treidler said. "That's one of the most exciting things in soccer is to score that many goals like that. We knew we had four or five goals in the second half in us and that's exactly what happened."

8 Crescenta Valley boys' soccer defeats El Rancho, 3-0, March 2

It took three one-goal victories and another on penalty kicks for the Falcons to reach the CIF championship.

They finally put some distance between themselves and their opposition in the CIF final match with the Dons, who figured to be their greatest challenge coming into the game as the tournament's top seed and ranked fifth nationally by ESPN High School with one loss in their previous 34 games.

Berger broke the scoreless tie with a 40-yard strike in the 28th minute. Eric Keshishian gave CV a two-goal lead four minutes later when he scored on a throw-in from Trejo. Atanackovic scored in the 75th minute to put the game out of doubt.

The real story of the game was the Falcons defense, which shut out an El Rancho squad that was averaging 3.54 goals a game. Ruiz made five saves, as the Dons were held to one shot on goal in the first half.

It was also revenge for Crescenta Valley, which had its 2011 CIF title hopes ended at the hands of El Rancho in the quarterfinals by a score of 3-1.

"It just makes it that much better," Berger said. "They knocked us out last year and for us to beat them in the final with a shutout, it's just unbelievable."

9 Renaissance Academy boys' basketball defeats California Lutheran, 67-45, March 3

There was no team that could hang with the Wildcats in the CIF Division VI playoffs, not even the No. 3 seed C-Hawks in the championship.

Top-seeded Renaissance, which had averaged wins by 25 points coming into the title game, got big performances from its two stars, Jessy Cantinol and Vince De Guzman, who scored 19 and 18 points, respectively.

The Wildcats turned a three-point first quarter lead to 10 at halftime, 30-20. They put the game out of doubt by forcing nine of 18 Cal Lutheran turnovers in the second half and scoring seven unanswered buckets to start the final frame for a 56-33 advantage.

It delivered Renaissance and its coach, Sid Cooke, their first CIF championship.

"We knew we had to do it for [Cooke] and all he did for us these four years," said Cantinol, who finished with nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and shut down Cal Lutheran's best player, 6-foot-8 center Ryan Smith (13 points).

10 Glendale defeats Hoover, 55-49, Nov. 10, 2011

With playoffs and winning records out of the question for both squads, there was nothing for the Nitros and Tornadoes to play for than bragging rights in the annual "Battle for the Victory Bell" between the cross-town and Pacific League rivals.

That was more than enough for Glendale and Hoover running backs Alex Yoon and Luke Tabayoyong, respectively. Yoon scampered for 285 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries, while Tabayoyong tallied 155 yards and three scores — of 73, four and five yards — in 24 rush attempts in front of a packed crowd.

Hoover quarterback Alex Rangel also completed 19 of 30 passes for 313 yards, but still saw Glendale take a 48-33-2 lead in the annual battle for the bell.

Faced with a 49-21 deficit at the end of the third quarter, Hoover rallied for four touchdowns — three from Rangel — in the final frame to take the season finale down to the wire.

Rangel hit Donovan Malone with a 16-yard touchdown pass with 11:34 left. He brought the Tornadoes within 13, 55-42, with a pair of one-yard touchdown runs with 8:48 and 4:03 remaining in the game. Tabayoyong finished the scoring with a five-yard touchdown run with 3:31 to go.

Yoon was the difference in the game, coming back from an ankle injury to score on runs of 13, 32 and 44 yards.

"We were going to give [Yoon] the ball whether we won or lost," Glendale Coach Alan Eberhart said. "Our guys wanted this game very badly and they deserved it."

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