Basketball: Top 5 venues to enjoy a game in the WSGV

Above: The Flintridge Prep student section doing the A-Town walk … or cheering.

I’ve been all around and beyond, and I’ve waited until now to make my top 5 list of best venues to watch a basketball game in the West San Gabriel Valley. This includes boys and girls basketball. Next, I’ll post the top 5 places to watch baseball in the WSGV. San Marino tops my list right now, but Temple City is definitely lurking (every time I go there I feel like I’m walking on the set of The Sandlot).

1. Temple City — Every game I went to last year was jam packed. The student section is arguably the best in the West San Gabriel Valley. The fact that the Rio Hondo League always has a surprise up its sleeve only intensifies the crowd, not that they need the motivation. The band plays in the second tier stands, but the drum set always makes the place that much louder. It’s one of the fewest places that’s always filled to capacity. Every game there is always an experience, and you leave the gym with a ring in your ear. It’s that loud. That place also will have a special place for me. It was my first assignment as a freelance writer for the Tribune nearly nine years ago.

2. Keppel — If you read our story Tuesday about Keppel’s gym you’ll understand the aura that is Keppel basketball. It used to be that the gym always filled for the girls game, but with the boys making strides it’s no surprise to see the place packed from 5-9 p.m. during Almont League play. The place holds only 300 spectators, which means the noise is amplified that much more. Coaches like coaching there because it creates an exciting atmosphere, and unlike other venues, the student section makes up the majority of the crowd.

3. Monrovia — This is the last season the Wildcats play in what some would consider a run down gym. But truth be told. Monrovia plays in a gym that can rival Keppel’s game experience. The stands on the court go only five, maybe six rows high. Fans are so close to the action you can feel the sweat. There’s also a terrace that overlooks one end of the court. I’ve yet to see it fill up, but you know that when it does it’s something special. When I covered Monrovia’s girls basketball team last year the court stands were almost always full. I’ll check out the boys on Friday night when the Wildcats host Temple City to get a better idea of how things go when the boys play there.

4. Flintridge Prep — Every time I come to this gym I feel like I’m watching an old episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The court looks small and it has that prep feel to it. But the students there go crazy for basketball, and having 6-foot-7 center Kenyatta Smith the last three seasons help, too. It’s not just that the crowd makes it exciting to watch a game there, but the way the Rebels play make it exciting, too. They can play the half court and can also run it up and down with their guards, led by Edmund Chow and Jonathan Woo.

5. La Salle — You have to love the brick wall on the player’s side of the court. The grand stand on the other side is all spectators, giving coaches the opportunity to go all out without fear of parents giving them the evil eye. Don’t ask me why, but the place reminds me of Conseco Fieldhouse, perhaps it’s walking into the place and being right on top of the arena does it for me. You also have to love how the CIF banners are neatly decorated on one side of the wall. It’s a bit of nostalgia walking in there. I can’t explain it.

Also: La Canada, Pasadena, Muir.

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BREAKING NEWS: Keppel’s 87-game Almont League winning streak is over after falling to rival Alhambra.

Alhambra’s Gabi Rogers nailed a 9-foot jumper with 14.2 seconds left in the game to snap Keppel’s 87-game Almont League winning streak with a 66-64 victory Tuesday night. Alhambra (16-4, 5-0) was led by Vera Machado’s 22 points and Jen Imaa’s 20 points. Keppel’s Alyson Lock, a freshman, scored 22 points in the loss. Keppel (9-12, 4-1) had not lost a league game since 2002. Lock nailed a 3-pointer with 24.3 seconds left in the game to tie the score at 64-64. Rogers scored on the ensuing possession to give the Moors the lead. Lock drove in on the next possession, but was stalled by two defenders and lost the ball, followed by the Moors losing possession after a back court violation. That’s when Keppel coach Ib Belou called a timeout, only to later learn he ran out of timeouts moments ago and was issued a technical foul. Alhambra missed both free throws. Alhambra’s Amanda Hua was fouled on the inbounds pass with 3.2 seconds left, but she missed the one-and-one. Keppel got the rebound but couldn’t get off a shot as time expired, sending the packed Alhambra crowd into a frenzy.

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Signing Day is approaching, but where is Dietrich going?

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and two of his assistants strolled into the packed St. Francis gym last week when the Knights basketball team hosted Mission League foe Crespi. They were there to woo Dietrich Riley, a four-star coveted recruit with over a dozen Division I offers. It didn’t matter that Riley isn’t a starter on the basketball team or that he played little to no minutes. Kelly and his staff wanted to show him how important a recruit he was, and they wanted him bad. After the game, Riley, his mom and some family members met with Kelly for about an hour, and talked about Notre Dame’s prestigious alumni association, among other things.

Riley’s scheduled to make a trip to Ole Miss on Jan. 29 and has one official trip left to USC before the Feb. 3 signing day. Riley is still stinging from Florida giving him the silent treatment, according to the Orlando Sentinel. There are other variables one must consider before pinpointing where Riley may end up.

Tennessee was in pursuit a while back, but since then there’s been little to no news about Lane Kiffin pushing for Riley to commit to the Vols. Of course a lot has happened since: Kiffin’s unceremonious departure from Tennessee and his new gig at USC. Pete Carroll’s departure to Seattle surely will affect Riley’s thought process for committing to USC, too, and there’s Loyola’s Anthony Barr giving a verbal to UCLA. He’s friends with Riley, and that could persuade Riley to jump on the Bruin wagon. It was said that Barr was all but headed to Notre Dame. So much for that theory. The guess here is, come Feb. 3, Riley will stay local and pick UCLA.

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Girls Basketball: Keppel’s long win streak on the line

Keppel’s 87-game Almont League girls basketball winning streak will be in jeopardy when it visits Alhambra today at 5 p.m. Alhambra (15-4, 4-0) is much improved under first-year coach Therese Berner, and it helps that the Moors have a talented presence inside, led by 6-1 junior center Jen Imaa. Keppel (9-11, 4-0) struggled at the start of the season, but Aztecs coach Ib Belou is confident his team can continue its streak, which began in 2002. Keppel almost let one slip away before hanging on for a 50-48 victory over Schurr two weeks ago.

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Basketball: Keppel fans will say goodbye to an old friend

Keith Lair did a great job writing in today’s paper about Keppel’s storied gym…

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

ALHAMBRA – Some basketball courts have a mystic. An aura.

Duke has its Cameron Court Crazies. New Mexico plays at The Pit. Wisconsin plays in The Barnyard.

They are fabled arenas. They tend to be older and terrific places to watch a game or just to watch the zany, noisy fans. There are no thoughts of discontinuing their use.

There is such a place in the San Gabriel Valley. The Keppel High School gymnasium is old. It’s loud during basketball games. It’s cramped, like Cameron Indoor Court, The Palestra in Philadelphia and MacArthur Court at the University of Oregon.

But in a little more than two weeks, the Keppel gym will be history.

The Aztecs have two more home games remaining in the gym, which was built in 1939 and first used in 1940 when the school opened. And then it will be history. The Aztecs host Bell Gardens on Feb. 2 and then Alhambra in their regular-season finale Feb. 12.

The new gymnasium, just to the east of the current one, is expected to be ready for use by September.

“We really do look forward to getting the new gym,” athletic director Ish Perez said. “The kids really deserve it; the programs really deserve getting some top-notch facilities. The kids really have deserved it for a long time and it’s just nice to provide that.”

However, there is something that will be missed: that aura, that mystic, that charm. Think of the movie “Hoosiers.”

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