A Breath of Fresh Air. . .

Talk about icing the free-throw shooter.

With 2:20 remaining in the basketball game last Friday and his team leading, 50-45, Granada Hills' Sam Puathasnanon prepared to shoot a free throw.

Reseda High School called time out to let Puathasnanon, a 15-year-old sophomore, ponder his shot in the critical Valley 3-A League game.

During the timeout, the officials decided to delay action because haze from a smoke bomb--set off a few minutes earlier--had clouded the Reseda basket.

The doors of the Granada Hills' gym were opened and the players waited. Five minutes elapsed from the time Puathasnanon was fouled to the time he went to the line.

What did Puathasnanon do during the break?

"I went outside and got some fresh air," he said. "I walked around, kept my mind on my technique. I know you're not supposed to think about shooting free throws, but I thought about them."

Puathasnanon made the two free throws. With 53 seconds left, he sank two more, helping Granada Hills defeat Reseda, 64-51, and move into a first-place tie with the Regents.

Puathasnanon tossed in the shots with all the poise and savvy of a veteran. He looked anything but a first-year varsity player.

"He's really cool for a 10th grader," Granada Hills Coach Bob Johnson said.

Cool enough, Johnson figured, to become the starting point guard.

Johnson has used several people at the position this season, but said Puathasnanon "has done the best job of anyone we've had at the point this year."

"He runs the court pretty well," Johnson said. "He passes with either hand very well and slows the ball down when it needs to be."

Puathasnanon, who was playing forward, is playing point guard as the result of an "accident," Johnson said. At a practice two weeks ago, the two guys who had played the point--Sergio Peralta and Jack Peterson--were out with injuries and illness.

So Johnson stuck Puathasnanon in the spot. He's stayed ever since.

"He has freed up Sergio and Jack to play at the wing, where they are much better," Johnson said.

After finding a point guard, Granada is now in search of its first league championship in basketball since 1976.

And the way Puathasnanon handles the pressure--as well as the ball--could determine how the Highlanders do.

Back in December, Johnson didn't think Puathasnanon would even be on the varsity team. Puathasnanon, 6-4 and 155 pounds, began the season on the junior varsity team. He averaged nearly 18 points a game playing center.

Johnson placed him on the varsity team for the North Hollywood and Birmingham tournaments in mid-December. "My plan was to bring him up and see how he did," Johnson said. "My feeling was if he did well, maybe he'd stick with the varsity. I didn't think he would."

Puathasnanon not only stayed, he moved directly into a starting forward position. "I was very disappointed in the way some of the varsity players were playing," Johnson said. "So Sam moved from junior varsity to varsity starter. He has really come through."

On the varsity, Puathasnanon is averaging five points and four assists a game. Fewer points does not seem to translate into less happiness for him.

"The changing role doesn't bother me," Puathasnanon said, "as long as we are winning and I play at least some part in that."

While Johnson has encouraged him to shoot more, Puathasnanon said, "We've got other shooters on the team. Right now, I'm just happy to get it to them and let them shoot."

The Highlanders, who are 7-1 in league and 12-5 overall, host Grant today at 4 p.m. On Friday, they travel to Chatsworth. With two victories, Granada Hills is assured of at least a tie for the league championship.

Puathasnanon is excited about that possibility and Johnson is excited about Puathasnanon.

"He's perfect," Johnson said of his point guard, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average. "I wish I had a whole team of guys like him."

Reseda Coach Dennis King held three of his starters out of the beginning of the Granada Hills game for disciplinary reasons.

Guard Reggie White and forward Jeff Johnson did not play until the second quarter. Alan Gindlesperger, the team's leading scorer at 14.6 points a game, did not appear until the third quarter.

Two of the players arrived an hour and 45 minutes late for practice, while the other one never showed up.

Without the trio, the Regents fell behind by nine points after the first quarter. They never got closer than five the rest of the night.

A victory would have wrapped up the league title for Reseda, but that had no bearing on King's decision to bench the three.

"I don't care if it's the City championship game," King said, "the kids have to learn. You have to have rules and stick by them.

"If it's good enough for Bobby Knight, it's good enough for me."

It's been quite a week for the Simi Valley boys varsity soccer team. On Monday, the Pioneers defeated Westlake, 8-0, for their fourth straight shutout.

Last week, Simi Valley defeated Thousand Oaks, 3-0; Camarillo, 7-0, and Channel Islands, 9-0. Coach Andy Silva's team is 9-0-0 in the Marmonte League and 12-3-3 overall going into today's game with Royal.

Dean Freeman, with 26 goals this season, has 69 in his career. That breaks the school record of 61 set by Steve Ledezzman in 1981 and 1982. Freeman is five goals away from the single-season mark of 31 that Don Fiala set last season.

In the game Monday, Andy Torres recorded his 20th assist of the season to pass the single-season record set by Richard Wilcox in 1983.

In nine league games, Simi Valley has scored 52 goals and given up only four. Overall, the Pioneers have scored 71 goals and been scored against 17 times.

Notes

Tim Stallworth, an All-CIF Southern Section wide receiver at Montclair Prep, has verbally committed to attend Washington State University. . . . On Friday, Taft basketball Coach Jim Woodard discovered his leading scorer, Keith Franklin, was academically ineligible under the C average/no fail rule. On Monday, Woodard found out Kevin Franklin, the No. 2 scorer and Keith's brother, was also ineligible. "It hurts very much," said Woodard, whose team is 3-5 in the Valley 4-A League. "It's quite a blow, but we'll have to suck it up." Keith, a junior center, was averaging 15 points a game, while Kevin, a sophomore forward, was adding 14.5 points an outing . . . San Fernando lost four varsity players, including Cordell Seeley and Maurice Walton. The North Hollywood girls' varsity basketball team, which is 13-1 and a contender for the 3-A title, lost guard Ardonia Hawthorne. . . .

Van Nuys Coach Jeff Halpern said point guard Pat Meyer will probably not play today against Polytechnic because of an ankle injury suffered last week against Marshall. The Wolves, who are 8-0 in league and 17-2 overall, have already clinched at least a tie for the East Valley League championship. Meyer, averaging 15.6 points and 4.8 assists a game, may play Friday against Birmingham even if Van Nuys beats Poly. "We're going for 10-0 because it looks better than 9-1 going into the playoffs," Halpern said. "Pat's itching to do as much as he can." . Westlake's Michelle Stevens, who broke her hand in November, scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, made three steals and blocked two shots in her team's 42-20 win over Simi Valley last week. Stevens, a two-time Marmonte League Most Valuable Player, wore a heavy bandage on her hand even though she handled the ball most of the time. She was asked if it hurt. "Only when the ball hits my hand," she replied. . . .

The State Federated Council has adopted a resolution calling for the use of a smaller basketball for girls' play. The smaller ball will go into play next season.

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