City Basketball Playoffs : Here's Another Cleveland Seeking Respect

Times Staff Writer

Meanwhile, out in the Valley, Greg Herrick and his Cleveland High Cavaliers, winners of 18 straight and 22 of 23 this basketball season, continue to roll along.

They are The Times' No. 2 team in the City, the second-seeded team in the 4-A playoffs--the quarterfinal round will be played tonight--and are averaging about 82 points a game.

They also have a mission.

There's a principle at stake here. Herrick's motivation is about as subtle as a slap in the face, which is exactly what he believes he has been getting for too long. Win it for Cleveland. Win it for Herrick. Win it for the Valley.

Inner-city schools have not given Cleveland its due for too many years, Herrick believes.

Despite the adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," Herrick would just as soon keep trying to beat 'em, especially defending champion and top-ranked Crenshaw. He would have to get to the finals to get at the Cougars, but a win tonight at home at 7:30 against Banning, coupled with a victory by Manual Arts over Fremont, would give him a chance to show off the Cavaliers.

Getting recognition from folks outside the Valley has been Herrick's problem for a few years now, and this seems like as good a year as any to go for it.

"I know, and other people who know basketball, say we're as good as anybody in the city," Herrick said. "Every time I go to a meeting (assistant coach) Joe Weakley from Crenshaw says, 'Who have you played? Who's in your league?' In the back of their minds they say we're 22-1, but they say we wouldn't be 22-1 if we played down there (the inner-city). That's unfounded."

Crenshaw is inner-city basketball. The Cougars (18-0) have been handling most opponents this season the way garbage collectors handle trash cans. Grab firmly, toss around, then move on to the next one. Nine of their last 10 victories have included triple-digit scoring, including a 101-43 victory over Dorsey in the first round last Friday.

"If that's what impresses them, so be it," Herrick said. "I think that's a very shallow statistic, and we're averaging 82 points a game."

Cleveland heads into tonight's game with some big numbers of its own. Biggest is the 18-game winning streak--the Cavaliers only loss was Dec. 13 against Dominguez of the Southern Section, 63-58. There was a 101-66 first-round win over Locke, and there are seven lettermen from last season's team, which was 20-2 before being upset by Fremont in the first round of the playoffs.

The standout is Trevor Wilson, a 6-foot 7-inch junior forward who is averaging 24 points a game this season. The rest of the starting lineup is all seniors and solid, with guards Tyrone Mitchell and Kevin Stafford, 6-3 forward Anthony Kidd, who is already verbally committed to Washington State, and 6-6 center Andre Washington, who is averaging 14 points a game. Mitchell had a big game against Locke, with 22 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

Herrick says this team is his best in the six years he has been at Cleveland, including the 1981 and '82 teams that had Kevin Holmes and Keith Morrison and won two straight 3-A championships. Holmes then went to DePaul, Morrison to Washington State.

History shows that a Cleveland-Banning matchup in a key situation is nothing new. A win by Herrick, however, would be. His teams have lost in the first round of the playoffs and in the semifinals of the Banning tournament last season, but both of those games were at Banning.

"The year they won the City title, two years ago, we were a fourth-place team in the Valley 4-A League with a team practically of all sophomores, the same ones that start for us now," he said. "We had a nine-point lead at the end of the third quarter, and they came back to beat us.

"We've never played them outside the Banning High School gymnasium. I'm not going to say here that we'll win, but it will be a different story. They'll be the ones having to deal with the strange exteriors and the 2 1/2-hour bus ride and the rubbery legs from all that."

The Pilots are led by a couple of seniors, guard Eric Cooper, who is averaging 24 points a game, and forward Joe Johnson, who is averaging 16. Cooper was named Most Valuable Player in the Banning tournament.

Meanwhile, Crenshaw, which beat Washington by a combined score of 210-134 in two meetings during the Central League season, will play host to the 14-9 Generals in another 4-A quarterfinal game. The other games will have Hamilton at Carson and Belmont at Manual Arts.

Valley representation is hardly a problem in the 3-A games. Third-seeded San Pedro will play Reseda at the Sports Arena in a 4:30 p.m. game before the Clippers meet the Seattle SuperSonics. South Gate will be at Fairfax, Granada Hills at Wilson, and Jefferson at Van Nuys.

In the girls' playoffs, the top-seeded Locke girls' team will move into the playoffs in the 4-A Division today after having had a bye in the first round. Locke will play host to Banning at 2:30 p.m. Banning was a six-point winner Friday over Cleveland. In other games, Westchester will play at fourth-seeded Fremont at 2:30, No. 3 Manual Arts will play at Washington at 5:30, and Dorsey will be at Kennedy, the second-seeded team.

Crenshaw, the top-seeded team in the girls' 3-A playoffs and coming off a 41-point win over Bell, will play host to South Gate at 5:30. San Pedro will be at Eagle Rock, defending champion Fairfax will play host to Sylmar in a 5:30 game, and Van Nuys will be at Jordan.

The semifinals will be played Friday at the Sports Arena.

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