Giant-Killer San Pedro Beats the Odds Against Van Nuys; Fairfax Next

Times Staff Writer

The Cook couldn't do it. Bring on the Soph.

Last week few oddsmakers gave San Pedro's smallish basketball team much of a chance against Van Nuys and 6-8 center Anthony Cook.

But Van Nuys is sitting home this Friday while San Pedro faces once-beaten Fairfax and another big man, 6-7 sophomore Sean Higgins, for the Los Angeles City 3-A title.

Folks in the San Fernando Valley may be shocked but people who have followed the San Pedro program in recent times know the Pirates are usually a handful.

They reached the City semifinals last year and Coach Jack Kordich says of last week's victory over Van Nuys, "I'm not in shock to beat 'em. I know they were in the Valley. We had to play good ball to beat 'em. Most people thought we couldn't handle Cook, but there are five guys on the floor. It's what they do together, not what one guy does."

Rebounding Crucial

San Pedro, whose big man is Curt Jones at 6-3, is concerned about Fairfax's height--alongside Higgins is Tony Thomas at 6-6--but presents some problems as well.

"We worry about height every game." Kordich said, "We're truly a 3-A team; usually a team that makes it this far has 4-A size. But we have the outstanding guard, we're a good rebounding team, we've got two or three guys who can come off the bench. If we stay on the board with them, it should be a close game."

The Pirates haven't won a City title since the days of Willie Naulls in the early 1950s, but Kordich has developed an excellent program over the last three years, only the lack of a big man keeping the Pirates from being truly dominant.

Two years ago Novian Whitsitt led the City in scoring and the Pirates went 14-6, winning the Eastern-Marine League. Last year, with a talented, balanced starting five, the Pirates went 19-3 and were beaten in the City semifinals by eventual champ Reseda. The major problem last season was lack of depth.

Balanced Offense

This year the Pirates are 20-5, league champs for the third straight year. They are eight deep and Kordich runs a team-oriented game that involves everyone. Often, 9 or 10 players score.

The prime weapon is guard Otis Livingston, who lives up to his "Mr. Hollywood" designation by wearing an "H" cut into his hair. Livingston, a mercurial 5-11 senior with octopus-like arms, can play fiendish defense and loves to drive the lane and pass off in a crowd. Against Van Nuys he was seen blocking a shot by Cook on one end and dunking over him on the other.

Though Livingston likes to be the playmaker, he can score on nearly anybody when instructed to do so. In a recent game Kordich gave him those instructions. "He scored four straight times. Nobody could stop him," Kordich said.

The coach fears a drop in the team's efficiency next year after Livingston graduates. "It's hard to replace a guard the quality of Otis," he said.

Livington Leads Pirates

Fairfax's best player, super-quick point guard Jerome Jenkins, should provide an excellent match-up for Livingston. He has led Fairfax to a 20-1 record.

The Pirates' other two-year starter is the 6-3 Jones, who will be giving up some inches at center but knows how to throw his body around. The 200-pounder is an all-City tight end and linebacker and likes to live up to his nickname, "Dr. Dunk."

The third senior starter is forward Jure Sestich, one of the team's best shooters. His brother, Mike, a sophomore, comes off the bench and should provide future benefits. Kordich calls him the best sophomore he has coached.

Junior starters are forward Zlatko Josic, a bull on the offensive boards who has become one of the Pirates' leading scorers since the start of league play, and guard Damon Whitsitt, who overcame a midseason shooting slump and has been hitting the long jumpers lately. Guard Ron Davis provides further firepower.

"Last year's first five was as good as this year," Kordich said. "We're a little more deep this year. We're better on the boards. Cook (of Van Nuys) got his 22 points and 11 rebounds against us but he didn't devastate us. If we get in a running game we should be all right. Fairfax likes to run, but we have a good running game, too. Basically we've got to get on the boards to get the running game going."

San Pedro will meet Fairfax at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Sports Arena.

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