Star-News boys All-Stars coach Tim Tucker is tired of east side arrogance …

Last year’s results of the Tribune/Star-News All-Star Classic haven’t sat well with many on the Pasadena-side of the San Gabriel Valley.

Both the Tribune girls and boys teams posted easy wins to sweep the games and will be looking for more on Friday when the rivalry for the Valley’s top senior basketball talent is renewed. Tip off for the girls game is at 5:30 p.m. The boys game will follow at 7:30. Both are at Damien High.

There will be a 3-point shooting contest at halftime of both games.

The Tribune leads the all-time boys series 6-5 and is favored to add to the lead thanks to players like the Damien tandem of Jeremy Hemsley and Malik Fitts. As loaded as the Tribune looks, Star-News boys coach Tim Tucker of Maranatha isn’t buying that his team is going to get run out of the building.

“It’s kind of funny to me, the arrogance of the east side and what they think,” Tucker said. “It’s not like they’ve blown us out. Every time we’ve played them the last couple years, half our team hasn’t shown up. I think, for the west side, we have to start taking the game more serious. I think they take it more serious than we do.

“I think that also has to do with the home-court advantage. Our fans don’t want to drive out there. But we’re coming to win. Simple and plain. I’m tired of the talk and the arrogance on that side, like they’re Kentucky and we’re Pasadena City College or something.”

Although Tucker won’t have the area’s top player in Tyler Dorsey, who will be playing in the Jordan Brand All-Star Game in New York this weekend, he will have a strong complement of standouts capable of bringing back a win.

Renaissance Academy guard Marquise Mosley is the best player in the Valley nobody has ever heard of. There’s good size with 6-foot-10 Cantwell center Gligorije Rakocevic and 6-foot-5 Duarte post player Josh Dorsey.

But as good as the Star-News is at certain positions, the game still comes down to Hemsley, Fitts and Damien teammate Micah Robinson playing their final prep game on their home court. Then throw in other area standouts like Glendora’s AJ Birgonia and Los Altos’ Christian Espinoza, and it’s easy to see why that the Tribune has no holes.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who are good shooters, good 3-point shooters, drivers/slashers and definitely we’ve got some good dunkers,” said Tribune head coach Jeff Lucas of Los Altos. “Almost everybody on this team can shoot the ball. They all can put the ball on the floor. It should be a good game, obviously.”

The last time Star-News girls coach Joe Kikuchi of Keppel participated in the game was two years ago and his team came up on the short end of the scoreboard. It was a win the Tribune girls team used to help take what’s now a 6-5 series lead.

Kikuchi returns with a powerful roster led by Maranatha’s Channon Fluker, Keppel point guard Lauren Saiki and South Pasadena forward Lexie Scholtz. The goal has been very simple in practice for the Star-News and that’s quite simply to win and get some respect for their side of town.

“No. 1, I always want to win and these girls always want to win,” Kikuchi said. “I really wasn’t happy about losing last time. The thing I wasn’t happy with is that we were so small and we would have to use our speed and defense to make up for our lack of height. But with the rules of not being able to press, we really couldn’t maintain anything and just wore down because they were bigger.”

The Tribune is coached by South Hills’ Tiffany Liang and led by the Huskies’ Brittany Wang. The Tribune is guard heavy, so getting into a shootout rather than a slug fest may prove beneficial to their chances.

“They’re very unselfish players,” Liang said of her team. “We want them to not be afraid to shoot the ball when they’re open.”

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Classic logoTribune/Star-News All-Star Classic
Friday, Damien High School
Time: Girls game, 5:30 p.m.; boys 7:30
Series record: Tribune boys lead 6-5; Star-News girls lead 6-5.
Last year: Tribune boys won 89-81; Tribune girls won 85-60.

STAR-NEWS’ MOSLEY WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: It’s possible that the most dangerous player in Friday’s Tribune/Star-News All-Star Classic will also be the smallest.
Renaissance Academy point guard Marquise Mosley has far exceeded whatever limitations his height put on him. And on Friday night, Mosley likely holds the key as to whether the Star-News team can beat the Tribune.
The 12th annual Classic at Damien High School begins with the girls game at 5:30 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30.
“He’s a great basketball player,” Star-News head coach Tim Tucker of Maranatha said. “He’s deceptive, has speed and his IQ for the game is incredible. After practice the other day, I told him he’s got to be a little more aggressive with what he does because he’s going to be a big key to us having a chance to win this game.”

TRIBUNE GIRLS COACH TIFFANY LIANG WANTS HER TEAM TO SHOOT: After holding the first practice for the Tribune girls all-star team, coach Tiffany Liang of South Hills came away thinking one of her team’s biggest strengths could be its biggest weakness.
Loaded with guards, the Tribune team saw many of its best players declining to shoot during its scrimmage in favor of passing the ball to teammates. Liang wants the opposite to happen on Friday.
“Our girls are kinda too nice, they don’t want to shoot the ball,” Liang said. “They’re very unselfish players. I think one of our coaches told them ‘We want to shoot the ball before we turn it over.’”
The Tribune roster is very guard heavy. Post players are a bit thin, which may prove costly against the taller Star-News.
When asked if any players stood out in the opening practice, Liang was quick to point to Rowland guard Emily Mesa, who helped the Raiders win 16 games this winter.

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Star-News All-Star rosters announced …

What: 12th Annual Tribune/Star-News All-Star Senior Basketball Game
When: Friday, April 17
Girls Game: 5:30 p.m.
Boys Game: 7:30 p.m.
Series record: Tribune boys lead 6-5; Star-News girls lead 6-5.
Last year: Tribune boys won 89-81; Tribune girls won 85-60.


Coach: Tim Tucker (Maranatha)

Bertram Mak, Keppel, Forward
Bailey Kikuchi, Keppel, Guard
Jeremy Hayes, Muir, Forward
Eli Peters, Gabrielino, Forward
Marquise Mosely, Renaissance, Guard
Josh Dorsey, Duarte, Forward
Joey Toyama, South Pasadena, Guard
Tey Williams, Maranatha, Guard
Ali Elwahary, Temple City, Guard
Jaylin Bledsoe, Pasadena, Guard
Kosta Jankovic, Renaissance, Forward
Gligorije Rakocevic, Cantwell, Forward
Arnas Dautartas, San Gabriel Academy, Guard
Christian Lee, South Pasadena, Guard

Coach: Joe Kikuchi (Keppel)
Tammy Lai (South Pasadena)

Lauren Saiki, Keppel, Guard
Lexie Scholtz, South Pasadena, Forward
Sophia Hathaway, South Pasadena, Center
Elise Takahama, South Pasadena, Guard
Stephanie Esquivel, Rio Hondo Prep, Guard
Channon Fluker, Maranatha, Center
Caira Benton, Arcadia, Forward
Kiki Yang, Pas Poly, Guard
Emily Ho, Gabrielino, Guard
Kylie Fujioka, Keppel, Center
Kellie Kamida, Keppel, Guard
Tammie Matsukiyo, Keppel, Forward
Sabrina Law, Temple City, Guard
Melanie Chen, Arcadia, Forward,
Marie Weston, La Canada, Guard

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Power outage could prove costly again for local baseball teams …

There’s a power outage in one section of the San Gabriel Valley.

Yes, your lights still work if you’re in the Pasadena Star-News coverage area. But no, your favorite local high school baseball team can’t hit the ball over the fence with any regularity.

Yep, the most popular moment in baseball, the one chicks dig, has almost vanished from these parts. In fact, home runs are so rare among local baseball teams that a white smoke signal should go out whenever one happens.

The funny thing is, the issue seems to be only effecting teams playing in the east of Glendale but west of the 605 Freeway. Go east of the 605 and there’s a sophomore masher at Gladstone named Aldo Perez, who leads the entire Southern Section in home runs with nine.

A sophomore!

Further down from Perez in the standings is Glendora’s Nick Kaye with four. As for the Pasadena Star-News coverage area, there’s three players — Monrovia’s Eric Herrera and Pasadena’s Niko Lopez and Tyler Bradley — tied with two apiece.

So what’s the problem? It’s a question that befuddles area coaches who swear they still allow their players to swing for the fences.

Coaches contacted for this story all pointed to the CIF-Southern Section’s requirement that baseball teams use less-lethal BBCOR bats. This started in 2012. BBCOR stands for Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution. In lay terms, balls come off BBCOR bats with less velocity. But that can only be part of the explanation. So why everyone else hitting more homers?

“In general, on our side of the Valley I don’t think we have the same size guys that the east side of the Valley has in terms of natural build,” Monrovia head coach Brad Blackmore said. “You get out in the Inland Empire and you just see some big dudes. To make the answer real simple, we’re not growing those guys at Monrovia or Alhambra.

“You can get them as strong as you can in the weight room, but you can’t replace natural height. You just can’t. You can offset it by asking how many D-1 college pitchers have come out of this area in the past few years, but where are the D-1 hitters? All of the guys on our side of the Valley who have been monsters the past couple years have all been pitchers.”

For some perspective, Blackmore said that Monrovia’s 1998 team had six players with six or more home runs. Contrast that with last year’s Alhambra team, which won 22 games but hit only three home runs last season, and you can see there’s a definite lack of pop that appears to be getting worse.

Don’t get it wrong, the area is still formidable. The reason can be traced to strong pitching. So while win totals may look the same as 10 or 20 or even 30 years ago, they’re merely masking the power outage that’s taking place.

So far this season, there are seven area pitchers with ERAs of less than 1.00. However, postseason success has eluded the area’s top teams in recent years because they’re too often forced to manufacture runs rather than enjoy the two-second jackpot a home run can provide.

In addition to making chicks happy, home runs eliminate mistakes and take pressure off. They change the momentum of a game the way nothing else can. Without them, or at least the threat of them, the pressure to score can be too much and it wouldn’t matter if Clayton Kershaw was on the mound.

“It’s absolutely frustrating,” veteran Alhambra head coach Steve Gewecke said. “Because here’s what has to happen: we have to play absolutely perfect. We have to take chances to score that we wouldn’t otherwise take if we had a big bopper on our team.

“We played pretty darn well at Laguna Beach in the playoffs last year, hung a slider and it was game over, basically. Because their guy overpowered us.”

Alhambra is the perfect case in point. Marco Briones, who graduated last June, was one of the best pitchers in school history. Yet the Moors couldn’t make it past the second round in Briones’ junior and senior seasons and scored just six runs total in four playoff games.

It appears the same fate awaits Alhambra and several other area teams this postseason. Yes, pitching wins championships. But the amount of wasted great pitching performances by local teams in the playoffs are starting to pile up.

Hopefully, this year stockpile of good arms don’t go to waste again. But that means the ball has to start leaving the yard sooner rather than later.

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