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Community College Basketball Preview : Cerritos Is Favorite in South Coast Race : Falcons Hope to Erase Memories of Last Season’s Ending Tailspin

Times Staff Writer

Forget the fact Cerritos College won 24 games and a share of its third consecutive South Coast Conference championship in 1984-85. It was not a season Coach Jack Bogdanovich has fond memories of.

Bogdanovich prides himself on winning big games, and last year his team didn’t win many of them.

Cerritos needed only one victory in its final two regular-season games to win the SCC title outright, but was upset by Orange Coast and Cypress. Then, the Falcons lost to Mt. San Antonio, with whom they shared the championship, in a special one-game playoff with an automatic berth in the state tournament at stake.

Cerritos still had one more chance to qualify for the state tournament but squandered that, too. After winning the SCC Shaughnessy playoff, the Falcons were routed by Taft in a regional playoff, 106-86.

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Those losses weren’t easy for Cerritos to take. And this season, the Falcons have vowed to make everyone forget their disappointing finish.

“We have something to prove,” Bogdanovich said. “We were very disappointed the way things ended last year. We’re very anxious for the season to start.”

With the recruiting year Bogdanovich has had, it’s easy to see why. In addition to returning starters Marlon Wadlington and Russ Heicke, Cerritos has added 6-foot 9-inch center Tom Tolber, a transfer from UC Irvine; 6-5 forward Kevin Kurz, the Southern Section’s 3-A Player of the Year last season at Schurr High School, and 6-3 guard Willie Joseph, an all-Southern Section selection last year at Lynwood High School.

Opposing coaches apparently agree. They’ve installed the Falcons as solid favorites to win the championship.

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But no one is conceding a fourth-straight title to Cerritos. Cypress and Orange Coast seem to have their most talented teams in several years. Mt. San Antonio and Fullerton should be contenders and Rancho Santiago, which had a good recruiting year, should be improved.

Cypress, which is ineligible for postseason play because of a recruiting violation, returns three starters, including 6-7 center Paul Horn, from last season’s team that went 14-12 and made the Shaughnessy playoffs. Orange Coast was 18-12 and made the Shaughnessy playoffs last season, thanks in large part to the play of Shaughn Ryan, who is now at Arizona State. But 6-10 center Joe Seager, a former Newport Harbor standout, has transferred to OCC, where he will be reunited with two other former Sailors, guard Chuck McGavran and forward Rob Mase.

Guard Steve Snow and forward Rocco Meyers return to Fullerton’s lineup after sitting out last season. Coach Roger See also has four good freshman recruits in guards Bart Hakeman and Jim Mansfield (both from El Dorado) and forwards David Fox and Alan Fraser.

Two teams not expected to contend for the championship are Saddleback and Golden West, who ended up in the SCC’s second division last season. Here’s a closer look at Orange County’s South Coast Conference teams:

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CYPRESS: Returning Starters--Kirk Kramer (6-5, F), Paul Horn (6-7, C) and Jeff Martineau (6-0, G).

Top Newcomers--Bill Dobbs (6-1, G), Jeff Livesay (6-4, F) and Eric Krivashei (6-0, G).

Outlook--Dobbs, who played the previous four years for the George Air Force Base team, has earned a starting job, and so has Livesay, the player Johnson was cited for illegally recruiting last summer. The Chargers, who play at a deliberate pace and rely on defense and rebounding, seem to have everything but size. “We have some height, but we don’t have a lot of brawny guys who do well inside,” Johnson said. “But that doesn’t have to be a limiting factor if we play hard enough.” Johnson, who is entering his 20th year at Cypress, has 386 career wins and should surpass 400 this season.

FULLERTON: Returning starters--None.

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Top Newcomers--Steve Snow (5-11, G), Rocco Meyers (6-5, F), Bart Hakeman (6-1, G) and Bill Buda (6-1, G).

Outlook--The Hornets were short on experience even before sophomore guard Derrell Pratt quit the team recently. But Roger See, who coached the Hornets to a surprising third-place finish and 19-12 record last season, isn’t panicking. “We have some good kids,” he said. “We don’t have the talent of Cerritos or Orange Coast, but we have some talent. For us, it will be a matter of the new kids maturing.” Buda, a transfer from Ohio, has won the starting point guard job, and teams with Snow, who has a good outside shot, to give Fullerton a strong backcourt. GOLDEN WEST: Returning starter--J.T. Debbs (6-5, F-C).

Top Newcomers--Bryon Strachan (6-2, G) and Lem Utu (6-8, C).

Outlook--The good news is that the Rustlers, who were a miserable 0-16 in conference play last year, should win at least a couple SCC games this year. However, if they win more than a that, it will come as a great surprise. Last year’s leading scorer, Marc Lorigan, is passing up basketball this year to work, leaving Debbs as the only returing starter. Strachan, a former all-Southern Section pick at St. John Bosco High School and a transfer from Cerritos College, could be one of the conference’s best guards. ORANGE COAST: Returning starter--Jon Johnston (5-10, G).

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Top Newcomers--Chuck McGavran (6-2, G), Scott Clements (6-1, G), Joe Seager (6-10, C), Bob Mulcahey (6-7, F) and Mike Kelly (6-5, F).

Outlook--With only one returning starter, Orange Coast’s problem is inexperience. “We have talent and size, but the kids haven’t learned how hard you have to play on the community college level,” Pirate Coach Tandy Gillis said. “That’s going to take some time. But I think we’ll be contenders.” Seager should be a dominating presence inside, and he’ll get help from Kelly, the bruising forward who last season played for Mater Dei’s undefeated Southern Section 5-A championship team, and Mulcahey. RANCHO SANTIAGO: Returning starters--None.

Top Newcomers--Mark Moses (6-3, G), Howard Cole (6-5, F-C), Brent Martin (6-7, F-C), Simon Thomas (6-2, G) and Eric Shurman (6-5, F-C).

Outlook--The Dons, who were a disappointing 11-18 season last year, return only one player, guard Bryan Hata, from last year’s roster. “We have all new faces,” Coach Dana Pagett said. “But I feel optimistic. This team has a good attitude, and we’ve had six very good weeks of practice.” Guard Mark Moses, who had originally intended to go to Cal State Fullerton last season but sat out instead, will be one of the starters in the backcourt. SADDLEBACK: Returning starters--None.

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Top Newcomers--Tom Desiano (6-1, G), Mike Minier (6-5, G-F), Kendall Rodgers (5-10, G), David Miles (6-6, F) and Doug Lemon (6-4, F).

Outlook--The Gauchos lack size and experience, so they’ll be hard pressed to improve upon last year’s sixth-place finish. Saddleback’s top recruits include Desiano and Minier from Mission Viejo High and David Miles of Petaluma.


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