Boys Basketball Top Ten Preview: Damien leads the way, but there’s a lot of quality teams in the SGV

By Aram Tolegian
With nearly of month of games under their belts, things are starting to take shape for local boys high school basketball teams.
Most teams probably have one more stop on the tournament circuit after Christmas, and soon after that league play begins with championships and playoff berths on the line.
There’s enough evidence to form a strong opinion on exactly who are the top 10 teams in the area at this point. Here they are …

1. DAMIEN (7-2)

The Spartans had to replace big man Chris Reyes, now at St. Mary’s, but they haven’t really missed a beat. An athletic lineup playing a slightly more up-tempo style has been too much for most of Damien’s early foes to handle.

The Spartans started the season by winning the Baldwin Park/Sierra Vista Tournament. They were heavily favored to do so, just as they will be in next week’s Covina Tournament.

Damien’s schedule has been a good mix of local opponents in local tournaments and a trip outside the comfort zone in the Father Barry Classic, where the Spartans lost to Northern California foes.

Sophomore Jeremy Hemsley is averaging nearly 20 points per game. Senior Jared Dizon gives the Spartans another good scoring threat and sophomore Isaiah McCullough provides Damien good muscle inside.

The Sierra League will be no easy task, but Damien looks like the most complete of the group as of now.

2. GLENDORA (10-1)

The Tartans gave their fans a mild scare when they lost to California in the Baldwin Park/Sierra Vista Tournament.

But Glendora got things figured out in a big way and won the Glendora Tournament last week by knocking off Walnut in the semifinals and Keppel in the championship. The Tartans will spend next week in the Century Tournament as their final tuneup before starting Baseline League play.

Head coach Mike LeDuc has nice talent to work in sophomore swing man Brandon Brothers. Big man Christian Schneider ensures the Tartans won’t be pushed around.

Junior guard Thomas Rico also could develop into a force, and if the Tartans ever got scorer Nick Colletta back healthy for a decent stretch they’d really be a nightmare.

The league goes through Etiwanda and standout guard Jordan McLaughlin. Glendora was swept by the Eagles last year and will need to at least get a split against them this season to have any hopes at winning league.

3. CHINO HILLS (7-3)

The Huskies may have seven wins, but it’s their losses that make us feel like big things are looming.

Chino Hills’ narrow 50-47 loss to perennial power Pasadena looks better and better. And when you consider the Huskies lost only because of a late Pasadena rally, you start to get the feeling this team will be capable of big things.

Chino Hills also played Etiwanda tough recently and will get a chance to tighten things up before league play in next week’s Torrey Pines Tournament.

The Huskies gave a good account of themselves in league a year ago by finishing third. They won 17 games last year and could win a similar number this season.

Cameron Curry is the only returnee from last year’s group of top scorers, but he’s capable of carrying the team when needed.


The Panthers get the nod as the most talented team in the Hacienda League and could make quick work of league with any sort of consistency.

Senior Nnadi Udengwu is the early favorite for league MVP, thanks to his 23 points and nine rebounds per game.

The Panthers will be thrown to the wolves over the holidays by playing several big-name teams in the Maxpreps Holiday Classic. No matter what happens, they should come back a better team and be ready to rock when they face Bonita on Jan. 4 in the first key league game of the season.

5. ROWLAND (7-3)

It was a mild disappointment when the Raiders fell to Keppel last week in the semifinals of the Glendora Tournament and did not reach the championship game.

Rowland has 12 seniors and is loaded with experience after winning 19 games last season. Replacing Derrick Mar hasn’t been easy, but the Raiders can fill it up from outside thanks to the return of sharpshooter Joseph Dionisio.

Forward Saeed Montoya and guard Chris Arazdon will be counted on heavily to fill up the stat sheet. When Rowland is playing its game and knocking down its shots, the Raiders are very dangerous.


Most area fans are wondering just how far the Trojans have fallen after losing Tribune Player of the Year Grant Jerrett to graduation and coach Eric Cooper and his son Eric Jr. to St. Anthony of Long Beach.

New head coach Brandon Lee was an assistant under Cooper and also was a standout at Glendora in the 1990s, so he knows the area.

Lutheran lost early in the Rose City Classic and will continue to play in tough tournaments and regular-season games for the remainder of the season as the school is playing a freelance schedule.

There’s still talent for Lee to work with in 6-foot-9 center Alpha Ndaw and 6-5 forward Joe Rushing.

7. WALNUT (7-3)

Yet another contender in the deep Hacienda League.

The Mustangs always seem to be playing their best ball of the season at the right time of year for underrated coach Josh Cameron.

Walnut reached the semifinals of the Glendora Tournament before bowing out against eventual tourney champ Glendora. It actually was the second time the Mustangs played Glendora, the first being a three-point loss.

8. COVINA (7-3)

The Colts got a huge win earlier this week over archrival Northview. That performance and the emergence of guard Mike Peters as one of the area’s most electric players stamps Covina as the favorite in the Valle Vista League.

The Colts aren’t quite as tall as last season, so that might be a bit of a worry when they step up in class. Covina has split two games with Diamond Ranch this season and has its own tournament coming up next week to further showcase itself as one of the top teams in the area.

9. BONITA (5-3)

We’d be all set to write off the Bearcats in the Hacienda League were it not for their win over La Canada on Dec. 15.

That showing proves Bonita is still dangerous for coach Greg Eckler, who always has his teams playing their best ball at the right time of year.

The league is wide open this season and the Bearcats are the defending champs, but losing league MVP Garrett Horine to graduation was a major blow.

10. LOS ALTOS (6-3)

The overall record looks nice and paints the Conquerors as another team believing it can win a wide-open Hacienda League.

Los Altos coach Jeff Lucas is one of the best in the area and may not always have the best talent around, but he still can muster a 15-win season like last year and stun somebody along the way.

The Conquerors simply have been taking care of business this season and will need to be on their best behavior in January in order to compete with the league’s top teams.
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Sierra Vista girls soccer improves to 9-1 with 6-0 win over Ganesha

The Sierra Vista girls soccer team had no problems in a 6-0 win over Ganesha.

The Dons received a strong performance from Jessica Lopez, a junior forward who had a goal and three assists.

On the season, Lopez has 14 goals and 17 assists.

Sierra Vista (9-1-0, 4-0-0) wasted little time in getting down to business as it scored in the seventh, ninth, 50th, 55th, 72nd and 75th minutes.

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Bishop Amat needs big second half to defeat so-so Whittier squad, 59-51, improving to modest 7-4

By John Sherrard, Correspondent

LA PUENTE – Bishop Amat, behind a big second half from its two big men, defeated visiting Whittier 59-51 in a nonleague game for both teams Wednesday night at Bishop Amat High.
Senior forwards Jeffrey Wold and Joseph Cook led the Lancers with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Whittier was led by senior Justin Mendoza with 11 points and junior Guillermo Blas with 10 points, including two 3-pointers.
The game was a final tune-up for both teams before they play in post-Christmas tournaments.
Whittier will host its third annual Holiday Classic, while Amat plays in the Covina Christmas tournament next week.
“They (Wold and Cook) did a good job, especially in the second half,” Bishop Amat coach Brandon Ertle said. “Our guards did a good job getting the ball down into position to them.”

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Boys Basketball: Covina beats rival Northview 73-56 in Valle Vista opener; super Mike Peters with 32 points

By John Honell, Correspondent

COVINA – Rivalry games are usually played at the end of the season with league titles and bragging rights for next season on the line.
In a matchup of last year’s Valle Vista League co-champions, the Covina boys basketball team came away with a 73-56 road victory over crosstown foe Northview (4-6, 0-1) in the league opener for both teams on Tuesday night.
That gave the Colts (7-3,1-0) a three-game winning streak over the Vikings. They swept the season series last year to help them get their first league title since 1985.
Valle Vista League play began before the Covina Christmas Tournament for the first time in recent memory.
“I wasn’t really in favor of starting league before the Christmas tourney,” Colts coach Will Bissman said. “But, if you can get a couple of wins it really does help, so it worked out.”

The Vikings had no answer for Colts senior point guard Mike Peters. He had 20 points at halftime and finished with 32 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead all scorers.

“This is a rivalry game,” Peters said. “I love playing in it. This is my senior year, I’ve beaten Northview five out of the seven games we’ve played. We want to win another title and I want to go out with another one. I was just playing basketball, and my shots were falling.”

A 12-0 run to end the first quarter broke a 7-7 tie and the Colts never looked back.

Matt Hicks put back a shot to tie the score at 7-7 with 3:14 left in the first quarter. The officials had to call a timeout because of confusion at the scorer’s table and that was it for the Vikings.

Eddie Hays and Blythe Curry hit back-to-back 3-pointers and the Colts followed with layups off three quick turnovers for a 19-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“We had some really bad turnovers,” Vikings coach Ron Rice said. “We threw some cross-court passes and they picked them off.

“At times, especially in the first half, we had the wrong player shooting the ball. We’re playing a freshman and sophomore, and the other kids off the bench are young with no varsity experience.”

The Vikings picked up the pace in the second quarter, but Peters scored 16 points, including a 25-foot 3-pointer to beat the buzzer at the end of the half.

That kept the Colts’ margin at 12 as they took a 32-20 lead into the locker room at the break.

“We tried a couple of different things on him,” Rice said of Peters. “We didn’t have the answer tonight. He’s mighty good. He’ll be a challenge the next time we play them, but he’ll be a challenge for everybody in the league.”

Curry hit a pair of 3-pointers to open the third quarter, but the Vikings stormed back behind the 3-point shooting of Uly Aparicio. Aparicio was 4 of 8 from beyond the arc in the quarter. He ended up with five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points.

“You’re always in danger in a Covina-Northview game,” Bissman said. “I’ve been in so many of these where one team is up in a game by 20, then they lost it. Strange things happen in these games, so you never relax.”

The Vikings pulled within nine points twice in the second half when senior James Cunnigan got inside to score. He led the Vikings with 24 points.

“Our goal was to keep them to one shot,” Bissman said. “We didn’t do so well in the first half and they got a couple of easy putbacks.”

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Surprise, surprise, Charter Oak girls soccer is undefeated and rolling after 2-0 win over Los Altos

Charter Oak-Los Altos photo gallery

By Aram Tolegian, SGVN

The remarkable turnaround being orchestrated by the Charter Oak High School girls soccer team continued on Tuesday afternoon.

The Chargers, 3-18-3 last year, remained undefeated this season with a 2-0 win over visiting Los Altos (6-4-2) in a nonleague game. Charter Oak is now 7-0 and giving every impression it will give a much better account of itself in the Sierra League when league action begins next month.

“It’s a big win for us, this was our step-up game,” Charter Oak head coach Kevin Harshberger said. “Los Altos, we’ve never been able to beat them since I’ve been here. They have a solid defense and a fantastic team, so this was a big really win for us.”

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Boys Soccer: It’s a new era, South Hills leads the Tribune’s top ten rankings

How times have changed. When was the last time South Hills led our boys soccer rankings and when was the last time Mountain View didn’t make the cut? Even in the CIF-SS polls, South Hills is tied for 10th in powerful Division 1 with Sierra Vista fourth and Duarte ninth in Division 4. Baldwin Park is No. 2 in D-5. Teams to watch out for that have greatly improved are Nogales, a flash from the past and Walnut — two teams that are unbeaten if records are accurate on Maxpreps. The league we’re going to pay close attention to is the Sierra. South Hills, Damien, Ayala, Claremont and Chino Hills are all capable of beating each other. Does the Sierra belong in D-1? Probably not, but it’s clearly the area’s best league.

Above: South Hills coach Kenneth Stratton has the Huskies off to a quick start.

Boys Soccer Tribune Rankings
1. South Hills (6-0-2)
2. Sierra Vista (6-1-2)
3. Damien (3-1-1)
4. Ayala (2-1-2)
5. Nogales (4-0)
6. Walnut (3-0-1)
7. Los Altos (4-2)
8. Baldwin Park (3-2-1)
9. Duarte (2-2)
10. Bishop Amat (2-2)

1. Ventura, 2. San Clemente, 3. Loyola, 4. Millikan, 5. Palos Verdes, 6. Leuzinger, 7. Valley View, 8. Santa Barbara, 9. Los Alamitos 10T. El Toro, 10T. South Hills

1. Cathedral, 2. Oak Hills, 3. Artesia, 4. Sierra Vista, 5. Hart, 6. Bellflower, 7. Norwalk, 8. Salesian, 9. Duarte, 10. Lawndale

1. Granite Hills, 2. Baldwin Park, 3. Pioneer Valley, 4. Crossroads, 5. La Canada, 6. Saddleback, 7. Marshall, 8. San Luis Obispo, 9. Santiago/ Garden Grove, 10. San Jacinto

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Jude Oliva leaves San Gabriel

By Aram Tolegian, SGVN

Jude Oliva resigned as San Gabriel High School varsity football head coach on Monday after three seasons. He was 17-17 at the school.

Oliva cited health, career and family reasons for his decision to step down. Oliva suffered from gout and kidney issues this season, which caused severe joint pain.

He and his wife just welcomed a newborn daughter. Oliva was not a full-time teacher at San Gabriel and will look for more gainful employment while also not ruling out a return to the sideline.

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La Verne Lutheran, where are you? Covina looking for a team to fill out Christmas tourney

Note from Covina coach Will Bissman:

“We had a last minute drop out and must find a team to fill in 16-team bracket. There will be no charge. All games played in the recently remodeled Covina High school gym. If interested, please contact Coach Bissman immediately by phone, text, or e-mail; (626) 484-6383;

1. Damien
2. La Salle
3. Rowland
4. Cal (Whittier)
5. Covina
6. Bishop Amat
7. Los Altos
8. South Hills
9. Northview
10. Charter Oak
11. Mountain View
12. Sierra Vista
13. South El Monte
14. Azusa
15. Bassett
16. ???????

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Glendora and Bishop Amat win tournament titles over the weekend

GLENDORA WINS: Playing its most complete game of the season, a young Glendora boys basketball team won its own tournament with a 62-49 win over Keppel on Saturday night at Glendora High.
The Tartans (10-1) hit from long range in the first quarter and got to the basket in the second as they jumped out to a 40-22 halftime lead and never looked back.
“This is the longest stretch staying focused and executing we’ve gone this year,” Tartans coach Mike LeDuc said. “In the second quarter and some of the third we ran a lot of plays. I was really pleased how we hung with it for that period of time.”

BISHOP AMAT GIRLS WIN SECOND TOURNEY: Defense wins championships and the Bishop Amat High School girls basketball team proved that again with a 45-28 victory over Sonora in the 18th annual Lady Knights’ Christmas Classic title game Saturday at Arroyo High.
The Lancers won their sixth consecutive Arroyo tournament title and 11th overall.
Leading the way for Amat was junior Paulina Santana, who had 14 points and was named tournament MVP.

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Boys Hoops: Glendora and Keppel advance, will meet in championship at Glendora tonight at 7:30

SEMIFINALS: Glendora got 18 points from Brandon Brothers in an easy 63-42 win over Walnut and Keppel’s Kyler Lee poured in 28 points in a narrow 55-50 win over Rowland to advance to tonight’s championship

By Steve Ramirez, SGVN

Glendora and Keppel high schools were both pushed after enjoying early leads Friday.

But both showed their poise, making key plays down the stretch to score wins and advance to tonight’s Glendora Tournament boys basketball championship game.

The host Tartans, getting 18 points from Brandon Brothers and 15 from Thomas Rico, closed the final four minutes with an 18-5 run on their way to a 63-43 victory over Walnut.

Kyler Lee scored 28 points and Keppel overcame a second-half charge from Rowland to score a 55-50 win.

The Tartans (9-1) and Aztecs (6-3) will square off for the title at 7:30 p.m. today at Glendora High.

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Damien boys hoops remain undefeated with 52-48 win over Jesuit

Damien boys basketball is on a roll. Not only did it knock off Thousand Oaks, ranked No. 2 in Division 2AA 60-56 in the Sierra Vista tournament title game, but it remains unbeaten as it travels north to compete in the 39th annual Father Berry Classic in Carmichael. Damien knocked off host Jesuit in the first round, 52-48, Thursday, getting 22 points and four 3 pointers from senior guard Jared Dizon. Damien (7-0) takes on Campolindo (4-3) in the semifinals tonight at 7:30 p.m.

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Girls Soccer: Bishop Amat starting to regain its form following 1-0 win at La Serna, getting game winner from Demi Lomeli

By John Sherrard Correspondent

WHITTIER – The Bishop Amat and La Serna high school girls soccer teams have taken similar roads recently in the CIF-Southern Section postseason.
Both were CIF-SS runner-ups last season and each have won a championship in different divisions.
Bishop Amat (5-2-1), however, got the upper hand Thursday with a late goal to pull out a 1-0 win over host La Serna in a nonleague game.
“The girls stepped it up (Thursday) and defensively we played really well,” Bishop Amat coach Ruben Gonzalez said.
“Neither of these teams deserved to lose, but we’ll take the win.”
With less than six minutes remaining, Amat senior defender Demi Lomeli took a corner kick from senior midfielder Yazmin Montoya and knocked the ball in with her shin, just two yards in front of the far post for the game’s lone goal in the 74th minute.

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The Big U’s, Udengwu and Ugoagu led Diamond Ranch past Covina 68-61 in Azusa tourney title game; Glendora tourney final four tonight

Tonight’s semifinals
Rowland (6-2) vs. Keppel (5-3), 6 p.m. — Robledo’s toaking Rowland
Walnut (5-2) vs. Glendora (8-1), 7:30 p.m. – Robledo’s taking Glendora

Covina led for much of Thursday’s championship and got 33 points from super guard Mike Peters, but the Panthers eventually reeled them in and one in overtime …

By Steve Ramirez, staff writer

Any success the Diamond Ranch High School boys basketball team will have this season is likely due to the efforts of Nnadi Udengwu and Ernest Ugoagu.

It certainly was Thursday night.

Udengwu scored 20 points and Ugoagu added 19 and the Panthers overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half to score a 68-61 victory over Covina in overtime to claim the Azusa Tournament title.

Ugoagu had six points in the extra period.

Diamond Ranch (7-2) also got 12points from Ethan Jarrell and eight from Jesse Garibay.

Mike Peters scored 33 points to lead the Colts (6-3). Blythe Curry had 10 points for Covina, which led 37-27 at halftime and 43-37 after three quarters.

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