A history of success follows the Crescenta Valley High and Flintridge Prep boys' basketball teams into the 2013-14 season.
Both squads advanced to the semifinals in their respective CIF Southern Section divisions last season and will look to add to their storied programs this year, while St. Francis looks to go where its never been before and Hoover and Glendale aim at playoff runs of their own.
CV has a chance to hit the 20-win threshold, reach the semifinals and the state tournament for the third year in a row. It will have to do so without its top two scorers from last year, reigning All-Area Player of the Year Cole Currie and Nick Springer – a senior transfer to Maranatha.
While that might be a tall task for most teams, Falcons Coach Shawn Zargarian showed his teams can overcome that and more.
Last year, he only returned one experienced player and guided his team to a 24-9, 11-3 in the Pacific League record. Crescenta Valley took second place in league behind Pasadena for the third straight year and reached the Division I-A semifinals and the state tournament.
One thing CV now has it did not a year ago is experience. Senior big man Eric Patten returns to a much bigger role and will be a nice one-two punch with junior Kevin Dinges, who transferred to Crescenta Valley as a sophomore.
Dinges spent his sophomore year on the Falcons junior varsity team after playing a key role on Renaissance Academy Division VI championship squad as a freshman.
“I really feel like our two big men in Eric and Kevin could definitely be a handful for a lot of teams,” said Zargarian, who also returns Berj Krikorian at point guard. “They are both skilled in the post. Kevin will play all five positions for us. They will be tough to guard because they're great passers and both really unselfish.”
Crescenta Valley has a number of complementary pieces and strong long-range shooters surrounding its top three returners, including Cole's younger brother Kyle Currie, Eric Bae, Arin Pezeshkian and Tadeh Taverdians.
Zargarian's cast has him hopeful his program will continue to progress this season, as he's eyeing a league title and another playoff run.
“The goal is always the same for us,” Zargarian said. “If you're in the Pacific League, as a competitor, you want to win that league championship. Especially for us, the last four years we've come in second place, so the goal is definitely to win that title.”
Flintridge Prep graduated a slew of seniors but returns its Stanford-bound star in Robert Cartwright.
“Having experienced guards, senior starters and captains does a world of good for helping our guys who are new to these roles,” Prep Coach Garrett Ohara said of Cartwright and fellow senior guard Kyle Hamane. “Those two will certainly make it easier.”
The Rebels, who qualified for the state tournament after a tough semifinal loss in Division V-AA, will look for success with a much different plan of attack after graduating six key players and just about all their size.
“We're not very tall as we've been the last seven years,” said Ohara, who returns Stefan Smith and brothers Scott and Andrew Tsangeos to bigger roles and welcomes junior-varsity call-up Miles Johnson to the fold. “I think the thing that this team does have is they're a little more mobile, agile and quick.”
Ohara will still have a dominating presence in Cartwright, the reigning Prep League Player of the Year, All-CIF and All-Area first-team point guard that averaged 18.9 points, 4.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 steals a game last year.
Cartwright and the Rebels will have their hands full when the postseason comes around, as CIF announced Friday they were bumped up to Division IV-AA.
With all its postseason success in recent years, including a Division V-AA championship in 2011 and increasing enrollment, Flintridge Prep was moved into the division that includes powerhouses like Serra, La Verne Lutheran and Bishop Montgomery.
“That's the who's who of basketball,” Ohara said.
St. Francis is coming off a program-best quarterfinal run in Division III-A, and Golden Knights co-Coach Ray O'Brien, who works alongside Jeff Stephens, is feeling confident bringing back most of his team that went 17-14 (4-8 in Mission League) in a division that saw last year's champion, St. John Bosco, bumped up.