By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
Damien High School enjoyed a solid run at the right time last season.
The Spartans (19-12 in 2008-09), who advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division IIA semifinals, look to pick up where they left off this boys basketball season. Damien, which returns arguably two of the better players in the area in Chris Adams and Chris Reyes, is a good bet to do just that. “It was a great run,” said Damien coach Matt Dunn, whose Spartans begin the season ranked No. 1 in the area. “It created a lot of excitement in the community, among the student body. Our kids remember that. To experience that, it makes them feel that (winning a CIF title) is a realistic goal.”
A very realistic aspiration.
It starts with Adams and Reyes, who give the Spartans a good one-two punch. Adams, a senior who averaged 16 points per game, is solid from the outside. Reyes, a sophomore, provides an inside presence after averaging seven points and seven rebounds per game as a freshman.
“I like this team,” Dunn said. “We have great chemistry and the kids work really hard.”
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No. 2 LV Lutheran (24-8)
The Trojans won a CIF-SS division title two years ago and advanced to the finals last season.
A similar run is expected again this season as La Verne Lutheran returns all five starters.
The Trojans will be led by senior forward Jordan Salley and junior guards Carl Cooper and Bruce
English. Salley, who is not expected to return until January after recovering from knee surgery, was first-team All-CIF-SS Division V last season, with Cooper earning all-state honors by Cal-Hi Sports and English first-team All-Arrowhead League accolades.
“I’m very optimistic about the season,” said La Verne coach Eric Cooper, whose Trojans are 54-8 in his two seasons at the school. “We definitely can compete (for a CIF-SS title). This is that type of team. We have the same kids.
“Last year, we ran into a senior team in Windward, which had one kid go to UCLA, one to Michigan and one to Penn State. Like I said, we have the same kids plus a few more. I think we will be very solid.”
No. 3 Bonita (24-6)
The Bearcats have been one of the most consistent programs in the area in recent years, and that will continue this season.
Bonita, which finished second to Diamond Ranch in the Miramonte League, is the league favorite this season.
The Bearcats are led by seniors Tim Fassas, who averaged 11 points per game last season, and C.J. Miller, who averaged 10 a game.
No. 4 Glendora (24-8)
The Tartans have advanced to the division semifinals the past two seasons and could make a repeat performance this season.
Glendora returns just one starter, but guard Calvin Smith, who averaged nearly 15 points per game last season, is one of the area’s better shooters. He will get help from sixth man Jon Healy, who moves into the starting rotation along with C.K. Bolado and Michael Doering.
Smith has been slowed by a back injury but has been cleared to practice this week. The Tartans, who again are expected to be solid defensively, will be without Aaron Stockham, who broke his collar bone in the football team’s playoff loss to Rancho Cucamonga two weeks ago and could miss two months.
“I think we have to do a really good job and make it difficult for teams to score,” Glendora coach Mike LeDuc said. “We don’t have (the scoring) options like we’ve had in the past. Our younger players have an opportunity to step up and we need them to step up to be successful.”
No. 5 Diamond Ranch (24-5)
The Panthers, who must rebuild after losing Division I recruits Chris Cunningham (Santa Clara) and Garrett Johnson (Fresno State), should challenge Bonita in the Miramonte League.
Diamond Ranch, in its third year under coach Loren Grover, are led by Malcolm Green, who averaged eight points a game last season and Richard Harris, who put in almost 4 a game.
No. 6 Nogales (24-8)
The Nobles also are in a rebuilding mode after losing its best two players to graduation.
Nogales, which advanced to the Division IIIAA semifinals, will be led by all-league forward Darnell Martin and Trey Smith. The Nobles, who will be the favorite in a wide-open San Antonio League, also get a boost from guard Jeremiah Marte.
“I think we’re still good,” Nogales coach Ricky Roper said. “As far as expectations, I can’t tell you. We had a good summer. This is a whole new deal, but we’re expecting to be pretty good.”
No. 7 South Hills (18-8)
The Huskies return their top three players and are expected to challenge in the San Antonio League.
They are led by seniors Ify Umodu (11 ppg), Joe Paul Rodriguez (9 ppg) and George Laguerre (5 ppg). Umodu, a wide receiver on the football team, won’t be available until the end of the CIF-SS football playoffs.
“I think we will be good,” South Hills coach Paul Reed said. “Our strength is that we’re deep. All 13 can play.”
No. 8 Nogales (23-7)
The Vikings are the favorite to win the Valle Vista League for the fourth consecutive season.
Northview lost its top three scorers but still looks good with seniors Zach Ward (7 ppg) and Kamaron Germany and junior Brian Johnson.
“All three played key minutes,” Northview coach Ron Rice said. “It’s not like we’re completely starting over but when you lose guys who have been key contributors the past three years, it’s going to be a different team.”
No. 9 Charter Oak (19-10)
The Chargers will compete in a very balanced Miramonte League.
Charter Oak is led by seniors Jaden Radcliffe and Evan Barr, who were first-team all-league last season.
No. 10 Baldwin Park (16-9)
The Braves will challenge in the Valle Vista League.
They are led by seniors Tomas Montes and Jimmy Ramirez, who were all-league.
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