Orange County Prep Basketball : Capistrano Valley's Thornton Is Hoping to Avoid a Letdown

Times Staff Writer

Capistrano Valley High School, the top-seeded team in the CIF Southern Section 4-A Division, has won three playoff games by an average of 27 points, but Coach Mark Thornton is worried about a letdown entering the semifinals.

The Cougars (27-2) will meet Simi Valley (26-2) at 7:30 tonight in Firestone Fieldhouse at Pepperdine University in Malibu. It marks the fourth time in the past five seasons the Cougars have advanced as far as the semifinals.

While the Cougars have enjoyed tremendous success under Thornton during that period, the personable coach said he has never had a team play as well this squad has in its past three games.

"I'm scared of a letdown," Thornton said. "We've played the best basketball since I've been here in our last three games. We've played so well with so much intensity. I just don't know if we can keep the momentum going."

A significant part of the Cougars' success has been an effective full-court press and tight defense. Capistrano Valley has forced an average of 25 turnovers per game in the playoffs.

Six-foot point guard Nathan Call scored 40 points, had 23 assists and 12 steals in two games last week. Call, a four-year starter, has played on teams that have won 100 games at Capistrano Valley.

The Cougars' big men--center John Waikle (6-9) and forward Jason Trask (6-7)--each scored 22 points in a 75-56 win over Rio Mesa on Friday night, the closest game the Cougars have had in the playoffs.

"When we get our inside game going like we did against Rio Mesa, we're pretty tough to beat," Thornton said. "We're an all-senior team, and I think the players really want to win the title."

Simi Valley, which has won 20 of 21 games, should present a big challenge. Two sophomores--Don MacLean (6-8) and Shawn DeLaittre (6-4)--pace the offense.

MacLean averages 20.6 points and 13 rebounds per game. He had 28 points against Rolling Hills on Friday, including 20 in the first half. DeLaittre averages 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds.

In the 3-A division:

HH Wilson (25-3) vs. Katella (24-3) at Cypress College: The Knights are attempting to reach the championship game for the fourth time in 20 seasons under Coach Tom Danley. Katella lost the 2-A title game to Verbum Dei in 1969 and 3-A title games against Murphy and Morningside in 1973 and 1974. The teams met earlier this season, with Wilson winning by 15 points in the Sonora Tournament. Scott Williams, a 6-10 center who has signed with North Carolina, averages 19.4 points and 11 rebounds per game for Wilson. Bob Erbst, who has signed with USC, averages 21.5 points per game for the Knights.

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