By Andrew Shortall, firstname.lastname@example.org
9:36 PM PST, January 16, 2013
LA CRESCENTA — Cole Currie would be the first to admit it just wasn't his night Wednesday.
The standout point guard of the Crescenta Valley High boys' basketball team was held off the scoreboard in the first quarter and to just five points at halftime. Those struggles continued into the second half, as Currie aired a good look at a three-pointer with 57 seconds left in a tie game with visiting Pasadena.
Currie shrugged it all off in the last half minute, as he connected from deep with 25 seconds left to give CV a one-point lead and sank both free throws on a one-and-one opportunity following a Bulldogs turnover to seal a 57-54 Falcons victory over the reigning league and CIF Southern Section Division III-AAA champions.
“We knew Pasadena would come out and get after him tonight,” Crescenta Valley Coach Shawn Zargarian said of Currie, who finished with 18 points. “He didn't force a shot, he stayed the course, believed in himself and made it when it mattered. He went on a 5-0 run by himself in the last 30 seconds, that's the sign of a great player.”
The win puts Crescenta Valley in sole possession of first place in league with a 15-4, 6-0 in league record. While Currie delivered the win, the Falcons wouldn't have stood a chance without Nick Springer, who finished with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds.
“All it means is they've won on their home court and we just got to take care of business on ours,” Pasadena Coach Tim Tucker said. “They held serve and we have to hold serve on our court, that's all it means.”
Tucker felt his team left too many points on the court, as the Bulldogs missed eight of their 27 free throws and also missed a handful of buckets at the rim in the game.
“It's a tough place to play,” he said. “We left a lot of points out there — free-throw line and layups, you've got to make those here. That point comes back to be a big point later on.”
It marked the second time in as many years Crescenta Valley has knocked off formidable Pasadena at home after it pulled off a 61-60 win over the Bulldogs last year on a three-pointer from Christian Misi with six seconds left.
“The last two years I lost here and when we go to our house it's always a blowout with them,” said Pasadena forward Brandon Jolley, who finished with a team-high 20 points. “There's something about this gym.”
The loss drops Pasadena to 12-5, 5-1 in league and could drop the Bulldogs in the Division I-AA poll, where they currently sit at No. 13.
“Now we're not in first in league, we're in second,” Jolley said. “In CIF, we drop out of that, too, losing a league game. We're not supposed to lose in league, we're supposed to go undefeated.”
It all came down to a back-and-forth fourth quarter Wednesday, as there were 10 lead changes and four ties in the final eight minutes.
Pasadena was first to notch consecutive buckets in the fourth quarter when Perris Hicks (nine points) cashed in an easy layup off a Jolley steal and assist to give the Bulldogs a 47-45 lead with 4:04 to play.
Crescenta Valley took back the lead, 52-49, when Springer drilled a corner three with 2:08 left. Pasadena knotted the score back up at 52 less than a minute later on a pair of free throws from Raymond Jackson and Jolley.
Currie's first look at a three came off a screen with 57 seconds left, but the senior didn't manage to draw rim or even backboard on the shot. Following the miss, Jolley went back to the line and made both free throws to put the Bulldogs up, 54-52, with 39 ticks left.
Sixteen of Jolley's 20 points came at the charity stripe, as CV's aggressive zone defense kept him out of good position and forced him to earn his points at the line.
Currie was vindicated when he drilled his fourth three-pointer of the game with 25 seconds to go play to put the Falcons ahead, 55-54.
“I just don't really think about [the struggles],” Currie said of how he coped with the slow start. “I'm pretty confident eventually they're going to fall.”
Pasadena looked to Jolley again in the post on the next trip down the floor, but CV brought a double team and Elliot Wilson poked it away to give the Falcons' Berj Krikorian the steal. Krikorian quickly passed the ball to Currie, who was fouled for a one-and-one with 5.4 seconds to play.
“I've been coaching against that guy all four years, he's an absolute beast,” Zargarian said of Jolley. “We finally on that last possession did a good job of fronting him and rotating to the backside.”
Just like last year, the Bulldogs had a shot at a win at the buzzer after Currie made both free throws, but Andre Spight's tough buzzer-beating three was off the mark, allowing the Falcons to celebrate.
Pasadena closed out the first half on a 10-0 run to take a 31-25 lead into halftime. Things began to turn in Crescenta Valley's favor with 4:30 to play in the third quarter. Spight (11 points) forced a steal and raced down the floor to throw down a dunk, but inexplicably missed it.
Jolley grabbed the rebound and went up for the score, which would have put Pasadena on a 6-0 run, but was whistled for a much-disputed offensive foul. The turnover led to consecutive three-pointers from Currie and Springer to tie the game at 34 with 2:57 to play in the quarter.
“I just got to ask the referee again how did he got an offensive foul out of that play?” Tucker said. “This atmosphere makes referees do some crazy things and I just thought he got caught up in the emotions because I knew it was an and-one play. God bless him, it's what he called and we're going to play with it and move on to the next game.”
The Falcons had Springer to thank for not being blown out early by the Bulldogs. The junior had his team's first nine points and 13 of its 15 in the first quarter, as Crescenta Valley went into the second quarter up a possession, 15-12.
“We all were nervous, I was nervous, too, but the first half we were playing scared,” Springer said. “We've got to stop playing like that.”
While the victory puts the Falcons on top of their league, they know there's no time to relax.
“It's big, it gives us a one-game lead over them, but if we don't take care of business Friday this game doesn't matter and we're dead even,” said Currie, whose Falcons travel to play at Arcadia, while Pasadena faces off with Muir. “We just have to take care of business and we'll see them again, hopefully we're still one game up.”