Pacific power shift ahead for local basketball?
Crescenta Valley basketball has untested team, while Glendale looks to keep rising; Flintridge Prep, St. Francis aim for CIF playoff return.
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Flintridge Prep's junior point guard Robert Cartwright is one of nine returning players from a 2010-11 team that won the Division V-AA championship. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)
It will be without a large number of departed seniors from that run that the Falcons break ground on the 2012-13 season, just as there will be a clean slate for the three other local squads that made the playoffs last year — Flintridge Prep, Glendale and St. Francis — and those that hope to get back there after a drought.
Glendale, which finished tied for third in the Pacific League behind Crescenta Valley and champion Pasadena before advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in veteran coach Steve Snodgress’ tenure, may be positioned to challenge the Falcons and Bulldogs this year with a strong senior core and a new addition that brings an instant presence in the middle.
The Nitros lost the dynamic guard/post combo of Sevan Pogosyan and David Yetenikyan, but the swing guard trio of seniors Arada Zakarian, Vahe Aristakessian and Rene Saavedra bring back starting experience and most of the scoring firepower.
“We’ve got some big shoes to fill, but we’ve got some experienced guys coming back,” Snodgress said. “That’s the strength of the team, but we’ve got to catch up the guys on the front line.”
At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, junior Arthur Terzyan, a late call-up last year who played in the Nitros’ two playoff games, will be looked at to anchor the middle.
“I think we can get better as the year goes on,” Snodgress said.
Crescenta Valley lost three prominent starters from last season in guard Dylan Kilgour, forward Davis Dragovich and All-CIF first-team center Christian Misi, not to mention center Rudy Avila and guard Tade Keshishyan, who played heavy minutes off the bench.
That leaves senior and four-year stating guard Cole Currie as the only returner with extensive varsity experience, although senior forward Elliot Wilson started games down the stretch last year. Other returners include junior guard Nick Springer, who transferred into the program last year, and Kris Jaborian, who can play multiple front and backcourt positions.
“[Them] being in practices with us and being on the bench with us and being able to experience the playoff run and great season we had is absolutely important,” Falcons Coach Shawn Zargarian said of his less experienced returners. “I think it’s something all those guys are striving to go through again and this time be guys who are actually playing. But there’s a lot to be said about game experience. A lot of guys are going to be thrown into the fire.”
Zargarian will go young at point guard with sophomore Berj Kirkorian taking the reins. Another new player in the mix is 6-foot-5 Eric Patten, who will look to replace the size the Falcons lost in the middle.
“[Patten] is a load,” Zargarian said. “He’s a lefty, just a beast inside as a far as physical strength, but he’s got a sweet stroke, too.”
With six seniors and nine total returners, Flintridge Prep returns the most experience with junior starting point guard Robert Cartwright and senior starting small forward Jedrick Eugenio back from the 2010-11 team that won the Division V-AA championship. And although the Rebels did lose an All-CIF first-teamer in Kory Hamane from last year, two more starters in center Kareem Ismail and power forward Chadd Cosse return from the squad that went 8-0 in the Prep League for its 10th title in the last 11 years.
“That’s a great place to start,” Prep Coach Garrett Ohara said. “[Cartwright] has improved tremendously, he’s had an amazing summer and has been getting a lot of Division I looks this fall. Every aspect of his game is better, and also his leadership.”
Filling in the depth for the Rebels are senior forward Tyler Weakland and junior guard Kyle Hamane, both prominent returners.
“That’s a luxury,” Ohara said. “We have a lot of experience.”
While the Rebels have dominated the Prep League, St. Francis has typically struggled in the tough Mission League, where it finished sixth. But that hasn’t stopped the Golden Knights from making a string of Division III-A playoff appearances over the past several seasons.
The challenge this season will be maintaining that streak without graduated guards Emerson Castaneda and Zack Gardea, who provided the majority of the team’s scoring over the past several years.
Out of five returning players, junior guard Evan Crawford is the only starter back from last year’s team that lost to Covina in the second round of the playoffs. St. Francis co-Coach Jeff Stephens said juniors Noah Willingford and Jake Beck have stepped up and should provide the young Knights, who have just two seniors, with stability.
“It’s pretty wide open, there’s a lot of competition [for starting spots],” Stephens said. “A lot of guys are in the mix and we’re really trying to figure out who the heck is going to be starting, but it’s not that important because we’re going to be a little deeper than we’ve been in the past.”
Newcomers Michael Allen, Kyle Leufroy, John Carroll and Markar Aghakanian, all sophomores, should get a chance to log heavy minutes.
“Our goal is to try to get more guys we can play with and go into every game with a chance to compete,” Stephens said. “We’re just trying to make the next step. We’re not in a rebuilding mode.”
Hoover has some rebuilding to do after failing to make the playoffs out of the Pacific League last season. Third-year coach Jack Van Patten said the largely new team with no returning starters is about nine deep with plenty of interchangeable parts.
“We shoot the ball real well and we can play good defense,” said Van Patten, who will rely on senior guard Jash Francisco and junior guard Teo Davidian, as well as senior guards Francis Roncal and Ando Adjemian. “We’ll push the ball when we can and we shoot as well as anybody, if not better than most teams.”
Glendale Adventist will look to turn the page on last year’s 1-18 campaign, where it went 0-9 in the Liberty League.
Renaissance Academy, which won its first-ever CIF championship last season in Division 6, has moved its doors from La Cañada Flintridge to Altadena.