Crescenta Valley Coach John Goffredo is accustomed to coaching teams that look as good on the court as well as in the won-loss column.
Goffredo, in his ninth year as coach of the Falcons, heads a program that has appeared in the playoffs 13 of the last 15 years, produced four high school All-Americans, 24 All-Southern Section players and 48 cagers who have played at four-year schools.
But this season, Goffredo has a team that lacks the stylish and tailored look of teams past. Gone is Harvey Mason, a flashy, three-time All-Southern Section guard whom Goffredo could count on for 27 points a game last season.
Larry Resendez, a senior forward who averaged 1.5 points a game last season, is the only returning player.
"We're kind of the blue-collar workers of the league this season," Goffredo said. "Muir and Glendale are the three-piece suiters."
But the switch in styles has not produced a change in results--the Falcons have been dressing down opponents with surprising consistency all season.
Crescenta Valley was 11-6 overall and 2-1 in the Pacific League before Wednesday's game against Pasadena. The Falcons beat highly regarded Glendale and put together a six-game win streak before losing to Muir last week.
"I can't sit here and lie to people and tell them we have great basketball players," Goffredo said. "If people saw us in practice, they wouldn't believe that we could win any games. And I'm a firm believer in the 'you play the way you practice' theory.
"This is a team that plays to its maximum potential every game."
After Goffredo watched his team suffer through a 6-8 summer--the first losing summer in the history of the school--all he could see was the potential for disaster.
"The summer is usually a fine indicator of what's going to happen in the winter," Goffredo said. "Never having had a bad summer though, I really didn't know what to expect.
"But, generally when you have nothing returning, you don't expect much."
Goffredo wasn't alone in his assesment of the Falcons' chances against team such as defending 4-A champion Muir, which had four starters returning, or Glendale, which had four of its top six players coming back.
"We have no big men and we're not exceptionally talented," senior guard Barry Eget said. "Every game we go into, the other team is usually better than us. Muir and Glendale will usually beat the teams that have less talent than they do. We can go either way. We're the in-between team. We punch in and we punch out."
Said Resendez, who is averaging 14 points a game, "I heard all kinds of stories from people who didn't think we could play. They said we're too small, not quick and couldn't rebound well.
"We've surprised some people and turned some heads. Our talent isn't that bad and we're a good outside shooting team."
No one, least of all Goffredo, could have anticipated the emergence of Eget as the latest in a long line of Crescenta Valley outside shooters that includes Brad Holland, Greg Goorgian and Mason.
Eget played on the junior varsity last season and came up for only four games when Mason was sick. Mason's scoring ability was apparently infectious. This season Eget is averaging 24 points a game.
"We needed someone to pick up the slack this season," Eget said. "I haven't grown since last season, so I guess gym time is the reason for my improvement."
Whatever the cause, Goffredo and teammates have felt the effects of Eget's improvement. So have opponents.
"It's a typical CV team in a lot of ways," Glendale Coach Steve Keith said. "They graduate kids, but they always find someone, whether it's Goorgian, Mason or Eget, who becomes a scorer.
"I think John (Goffredo) did a smart thing--and he'd probably admit it--by down-scheduling at the start of the year. He allowed his team to build its confidence and think it could play with anyone."
St. Francis Coach Drew Sorensen, whose team lost to Crescenta Valley early in the season, agrees that there is more than luck involved in the Falcons' success.
"Winning close games gives their guys the feeling that if it's close at the end, they'll be OK," Sorensen said. "All of those guys can shoot from the outside, but you look at the players on their team and you wonder how they continue to do it. Goffredo has done an excellent job with that group."
Goffredo doesn't want to hear about the job he's doing. He credits his players for staying together when all signs pointed to a disappointing season. The key to continued success, Goffredo believes, is to continue hiding the fact that the talent isn't there to carry the team to its first league championship since 1979.
"These kids know they're not great basketball players and they understand that they don't have great athletic ability," he said. "We try to hide our inadequacies, and so far we've been successful doing that.
"We can't afford to peak at the end of the season. We have to peak every game."