First published in the Dec. 4 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
Boys’ basketball is back at Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover high schools, and this season arrives sooner than usual, but also at the right time.
“It feels like a short break for us, since last season was very recent because we played in the spring [due to the pandemic], but it does feel a little bit more normal to be playing in the winter instead of in the spring with a shortened season,” Glendale coach Ib Belou said. “There is more normalcy.”
CRESCENTA VALLEY FALCONS
The Crescenta Valley High boys’ basketball team has its eyes on a prize that has seemingly been the exclusive property of Pasadena High in recent years: the Pacific League title.
“With league, our goal is always to compete for a league championship,” CV coach Shawn Zargarian said. “This year, with the senior group that we have, so many seniors and so much experience, our main objective when we get in league is to try to compete for that league championship.”
Last season, the Falcons finished in the middle of the league pack and earned a postseason berth. They fell in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA playoffs.
“Winning a first-round CIF game is huge,” Zargarian said. “But we’d like to win a few games in the CIF and make a run deep in this year.”
The Falcon squad will feature a wealth of experience with nine seniors, along with other strengths.
“We definitely have a lot of experience. That’s one of the things we like to hang our hat on,” Zargarian said. “Our three-point shooting is also one of our strengths this year. Also, our ability to score from different positions. One of the things we at CV always hang our hat on is being a strong defensive team, so our ability to guard in the half court will be one of our strengths, as well.”
There are three seniors Zargarian labels as the “backbone” of the team, all captains: Gavin Shaghoian, a three-year varsity player, along with four-year varsity players Allen Boghossian and Sean Kosco.
“We count on [Shaghoian] for leadership, for scoring, for defense, for all of it,” Zargarian said. “All three of them are vocal leaders for us.”
Junior Mikail Girgoryan will be expected to use his speed to contribute. Fellow junior Quinlin Daly will be a key player off the bench. Senior John Herbert will be important on defense with his shot blocking, rebounding and ability to take up space. Senior Ryan Radd will be back after recovering from knee surgery and should be available a few weeks into the season. “That piece to the puzzle, if he comes back, could be pretty special for us,” Zargarian said.
A freshman has made the roster and will make this season a family affair. Vaughn Zargarian is the coach’s son and plays guard.
“I try to think back to when he was 5 or 6 years old and I kept thinking about when he is going to be at CV and when he is going to play, and that time has finally come,” coach Zargarian said. “It’s amazing to have him playing for me.”
At Glendale High, the Nitros plan to stay in the moment, keep it simple and address challenges one at a time.
“Our main thing is we come out there and work hard and try to improve each and every game,” Coach Ib Belou said. “We don’t have any long-term goals. Of course we’d love to make the playoffs but, as a team, our focus is a game at a time. Whatever team we’re facing next is who we are trying to put our focus on, not looking too far ahead, and trying to stay the course.”
On the roster there are three seniors, six juniors and four sophomores. The strength of the squad lies in the backcourt.
“A lot of guard play, I think that’s what we have,” Belou said. “[We have] our ability to knock down shots and create off the dribble. I think that is going to be vital for us.”
Glendale has two varsity returners who will be key, Jahir Ponciano and Dior Pierre, and Belou expects a lot from both of them.
“Everyone else is hard-working youngsters,” Belou said. “We’ve got a lot of underclassmen that are playing varsity for the first time this year.”
Last season, Hoover won its season finale against rival Glendale. However, it was the Tornados’ only victory of the shortened spring campaign and they expect to improve on that this season.
“If we play as well as we can, I would expect us to be in the top three in league,” Hoover coach Jack Van Patten said. “If you just play the best you can, I think things take care of themselves.”
The Tornados have a slogan this season that reads “No excuse, just produce.”
“I saw it when I went to the Drew League games a couple years ago. They have it on the wall. That is their thing,” Van Patten said of the rally cry. “Bad things happen, but you just have to produce. Nobody really cares about your problems.”
Hoover will be operating with a short bench, with just nine players making up the squad.
“Our numbers are low versus other schools. That’s an issue,” Van Patten said.
Sophomore guard Zack Van Patten will be tasked with most of the ball handling. Michael Fernandez-Washington, who has arrived as a transfer from nearby Providence High in Burbank, will be counted on to be strong in a hybrid guard/forward role. Anthony Van Patten and David Khourdadjian will be “designated shooters” and look to space the floor to create driving lanes for teammates. Simon Ovasapyan has returned to the fold after being away for two years.
“I don’t have one really key player; I need everyone in there,” Van Patten said.