LA CRESCENTA — With few solutions to slow down the fast pace of the Hart High boys’ basketball team and hot shooting of guard Lewis Stallworth, the Crescenta Valley High boys’ basketball team was unable to defend its home court in Friday evening’s championship final of the Crescenta Valley Tournament.
Stallworth, a 5-foot-11 junior, hit 10 of 17 shots in scoring a game-high 31 points and being named tournament MVP, all while leading the visiting Indians to a 79-62 victory.
“I think he’s a great guy, that’s how I’d describe him. He’s probably one of the top four or five high school basketball players I’ve seen in the last three years,” Crescenta Valley Coach Shawn Zargarian said. “Especially when he’s hitting shots from the perimeter like that, his three-point shooting is too hard to guard.”
Down 19 to begin the fourth quarter, the Falcons (4-4) received a quick jumper from junior guard Berj Krikorian (seven points) to slice the deficit to 17.
As if on cue, Hart (6-1) went down court and found an answer from Stallworth, who drained a three-pointer off an assist from Frank Lonsinger (named to the all-tournament team) to put the lead back to 20.
The Indians maintained a 20-point advantage until 74-54 with 3:40 remaining when the Falcons made their last stand.
Falcons all-tournament selection Eric Patten hit a free throw that was followed up by a gritty one-handed offensive rebound and putback by Patten, who was fouled on the play by Hart’s Max Fladby.
Patten, who totaled a team-high 21 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, hit his follow-up free throw, which brought the Falcons within 74-58 with 2:15 remaining.
Unfortunately for Crescenta Valley, Hart quickly countered when Stallworth slashed through the lane and converted on a fall-away 11-footer while being fouled. Stallworth sank his free throw and put his squad up 19.
A little more than a minute later, Stallworth capped the evening when he dished to teammate Luke Maly for a running layup with 58 seconds remaining that put the visitors up 21 and led to wholesale changes as both teams pulled their starters.
“On the bus ride over here, I received an offer from [the University of Texas at El Paso],” Stallworth said. “I just wanted to show that I deserved the offer.”
Hart first created separation toward the end of the first quarter.
Crescenta Valley, which trailed by six, pulled to within 13-10 with 2:13 remaining in the first after a three-pointer from Patten.
Maly took the subsequent inbound pass after the field goal and raced to the other side of the court, scoring a layup within six seconds to give Hart a five-point advantage.
The score kick-started an 8-2 quarter-closing run as Crescenta Valley’s only offense over the final 2:07 in the first quarter came on two free throws from Kevin Dinges.
The Falcons fell behind by as many as 12 points early in the second quarter, but continued to battle in fighting to within 33-26 with 2:38 remaining in the second quarter after a three-pointer from Arin Pezeshkian.
Crescenta Valley kept its deficit around seven points before the Indians scored the final six points of the first half in taking a 44-31 advantage into the break.
“They just kept pushing. They’d get rebounds and would outrun us down court,” said Patten of Hart.
Hart opened the second half with a 10-3 run in going up by 20 before the Falcons surged to within 13 points at the four-minute mark in the third thanks in part to a four-point play from Kyle Currie.
Yet, that play was followed by a 9-2 run in which the Indians went back up by 20.
While Hart’s up-tempo offense was menacing, the Falcons were able to stay close in part to the team’s success behind the three-point line, as Crescenta Valley converted on nine of 21 attempts (43%).
“If you’ve watched us play over the last nine years, that’s what we do, we shoot a lot of threes,” Zargarian said.
Dinges added 15 points and was named to the all-tournament team, which also included Hart’s Myle Franklin, Flintridge Prep’s Robert Cartwright and Verdugo Hills’ Albert Marmol.