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Southern Section Basketball Tournament Preview : Sonora’s Prize Is Corona del Mar

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Times Staff Writer

The first Freeway League tournament is history, and now the top three finishers will get down to business tonight at 7:30 in the opening round of the Southern Section 3-A division playoffs.

Fullerton, the league champion, was the biggest casualty of the tournament. The Indians lost to Buena Park and Sonora and will miss the playoffs. Sonora (11-14) was the surprise team, upsetting Fullerton for the final playoff bid.

Sonora’s reward? The Raiders are matched against fourth-seeded Corona del Mar (21-6) in the first round.

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Buena Park (13-11) meets host Tustin (19-5) in a matchup of two similar teams. Buena Park’s offense is led by center Kevin Graddy (18.1 points) and swingman Gary Hunter (19.2).

Tustin, runner-up to Corona del Mar in the Sea View League, relies on forward Rog Middleton (22.3 points) and center Leo Parker (13.5 points and 8.6 rebounds).

“We both have two players who do most of the scoring and rebounding, but I think we might have better support players,” Buena Park Coach Ken Bell said.

Troy (19-7) won the tournament but drew another tough first-round opponent. The Warriors play host to Brea-Olinda (17-8), which tied for the Orange League title with Magnolia and Valencia. The winner meets top-seeded Rolling Hills (22-3) in the second round.

Brea has three players--Gary Chiotti, Ron Thomas and Mike Thorum--shooting 51% or better from the field. The Wildcats also have point guard Dexter Mumar, who leads the county in assists with a 10.3 average.

“On a given night, we can play with anybody,” Wildcat Coach Rick Jones said. “We’ve beaten Diamond Bar and Lynwood, and those are two of the top teams in the 4-A division.”

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In other 3-A division games:

Los Alamitos (18-6) at Schurr (15-9): Schurr has qualified for the playoffs 9 times in the past 10 seasons. Its top scorer is guard Butch LeNoue, who averages 18 points. Forward Paul Chavez averages 15 points and 8 rebounds. “We drew the toughest No. 3 team in the division,” Schurr Coach Tom Thompson said. Los Alamitos’ top players are center Mo Warner (15.6 points and 11.3 rebounds) and guard Ryan Blossey (6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists). Blossey is recovering from the flu.

Torrance (11-11) at Bolsa Grande (15-6): Torrance made one of the biggest turnarounds in the Southern Section after finishing 1-19 last season. Forwards Todd Muck (6-3) and Jeff Cummins (6-5) are its top players. Muck averages 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, and Cummins 11 points and 7 rebounds. Bolsa Grande won its first league title since 1962. Junior Joe Small averages 22.2 points and 11.9 rebounds.

Valencia (18-5) at Kennedy (17-7): This is a rematch of the championship game of the Santiago tournament, in which Valencia won, 47-46. Kennedy Coach John Mayberry said his team’s scoring total was the lowest in the school’s history. Center Dennis Burbank is Valencia’s top player, averaging 16.7 points and 10.2 rebounds. Guard Michael Keith averages 16.4 points for the Irish.

Los Amigos (15-10) at Ganesha (20-4): Ganesha was the runner-up for the 3-A title last season and returns two key starters. Antonio Johnson (6-5, 280 pounds) averages 18 points and 12 rebounds. He scored 40 points against Ontario last week. Guard Eric Madison, who was academically ineligible for the playoffs last season, averages 21 points. The Giants’ only losses were to Etiwanda and Nogales. Los Amigos guard Gene Altamirano was the third-leading scorer in the county with a 23-point average.

University (17-8) at Magnolia (18-5): Guard David Warren, called up from the junior varsity, made four free throws in the third overtime in a 71-67 victory over Saddleback to earn University the playoff berth. Magnolia won its first league title since 1969, with senior Mark Lyon (19 points, 8.5 rebounds) and junior Mike Goff (18.5 points, 12.3 rebounds) leading the attack.

La Quinta (13-10) at California (15-6): California tied for the Whitmont League title with La Serna. Center Corey Hoffert (6-5) is the Condors’ leading scorer with a 21-point average. La Quinta has a height advantage with 6-10 center Brian Joe and 6-8 forward Mike Whitcomb, but the Aztecs’ best shooter, Scott Campbell, is recovering from the flu and forward Ari Buford is academically ineligible.

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Saugus (17-9) at Katella (23-2): The Centurions had to beat Hart in a wild-card game to make the playoffs. Forward Rusty Morse is the team’s leading scorer with a 17-point average, and point guard Greg Weber averages 4.5 assists. Katella is making its 21st consecutive playoff appearance, a Southern Section record. Center Richard Lucas averages 16.8 points and 13.8 rebounds.

In the 5-A division:

Fountain Valley (12-10) vs. Mater Dei (24-1) at Rancho Santiago College: Fountain Valley needed a 43-41 victory over league champion Marina to gain the final playoff spot in the Sunset League. “We’re playing about as well as we can right now,” Baron Coach Dave Brown said. “We match up pretty well with Mater Dei except at center. But then nobody has a center who can match up with LeRon Ellis.” Ellis, the most valuable player of the Angelus League, averages 23.5 points. He blocked 7 shots in only three quarters in the Monarchs’ season finale against Servite.

Bishop Amat (17-9) at Ocean View (17-6): Bishop Amat tied St. Paul for third place in the Angelus League under first-year Coach Alex Acosta. Forward Geoff Lear (14.5 points) and guard Stefon Pace (13.4 points) are the Lancers’ top scorers. Ocean View won six straight games to finish second in the Sunset League and earn the fourth seed in the division. Four-year starter Ricky Butler, who averages 15 points and 12.8 rebounds, is shooting 55% from the field.

Loyola (15-9) at Marina (21-4): Center Steve Keller leads Loyola, averaging 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds. The Cubs won seven of their last eight games to reach the playoffs for the second straight season. “We try to play an up-tempo game as much as we can,” Cub Coach Bill Thomason said. Third-seeded Marina is hurting with 6-10 center Mark Georgeson and 6-5 forward Steve Guild doubtful because of the flu. Both missed the Vikings’ final two regular-season games.

Bosco Tech (21-5) at Servite (13-11): The Techmen, co-champions of the Del Rey League, are making their first playoff appearance in four seasons. Center Carlos Carrillo leads Bosco Tech with a 14.7 scoring average. Servite utilizes a balanced attack with forward Tony Smalley, center Nick Marusich and guard Brett Caya each averaging about 10 points. Marusich blocked two of Mater Dei center LeRon Ellis’ shots last week and finished as the second-best shooter in the county, making 65% of his shots.

In the 4-A:

Gahr (12-11) at Santa Ana (20-6): Gahr lost its first three games in the San Gabriel Valley League but won five straight down the stretch to earn the playoff berth. The Gladiators have allowed opponents an average of only 53 points. Sean Jamison is the team’s leading scorer with a 17-point average. Santa Ana relies on center Bobby Joyce (19.3 points) and forward Jeff Stewart (16.7 points). Joyce also averages 15.2 rebounds, tops in the county.

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Canyon (11-11) at Diamond Bar (23-2): Diamond Bar has one of the tallest teams in the 4-A division. The Brahmas’ 6-8 center Brian Hendrick, son of Angel outfielder George Hendrick, averages 20 points and 17 rebounds. Pat McMann, a 6-9 forward, averages 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Brahmas’ only losses were to Brea-Olinda and Bishop Amat. Canyon must rely on the outside shooting of guard David Jones (20.1 points).

Dominguez (21-4) at El Toro (18-8): The Dons opened the season by winning 10 straight games, hit a midseason slump and then won 11 of their last 13. Center Ronnie Coleman, who has signed with USC, is the team’s scoring leader with a 23-point average. El Toro, which upset Dominguez in the opening round of the playoffs in 1984, won its first league title in 13 seasons. Forward Eric Speaker (18.2 points) and guard Bret Johnson (17.9 points) are the Chargers’ top scorers. Johnson also averages 7.1 assists.

Nogales (17-8) at Foothill (14-11): Nogales guard Faris Manning was the leading scorer in the Sierra League with a 19.5 average. John Owens (8.2 points) joins Manning in the backcourt, which is considered the Nobles’ strength. Foothill is coming off an 83-66 loss to El Modena in its regular-season finale. Knight guard Chris Aqueveque was second among the county’s assist leaders with a 9.8 average.

Mission Viejo (16-8) at Lynwood (19-5): Lynwood held opponents to an average of 45 points a game and did not allow more than 50 points in its last 15 games. Knight guard Adrian Jackson is the team’s leading scorer with a 16.8 average. He enrolled at Ocean View with Ricky Butler and Desi Hazely four years ago but returned to Lynwood. Jeff Herdman is Mission Viejo’s top scorer at 20.9 points a game and averages 10 rebounds.

Damien (18-7) vs. Capistrano Valley (17-8) at Dana Hills: Center Kelvin Woods and guard Gary Eastlack lead the Spartans. Woods averages 19.2 points and Eastlack 16.4. Capistrano Valley has advanced to the semifinals in four of the past five seasons. The Cougars rely on guard Scott McCullough (19 points) for most of their scoring, and 7-foot center Jim Waikle causes problems for opponents inside.

In the 2-A division:

Edgewood (17-7) at Trabuco Hills (18-5): Edgewood’s leading scorers are forward John Moses (18.6 points) and center Herman McCullough (15.2 points). The Trojans are coached by Ed Coyle, former Santiago coach. Trabuco Hills, a second-year school, is making its first playoff appearance in any sport. The Mustangs are paced by forwards Gordon McNeill and John Welch.

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Central (14-10) at Woodbridge (20-5): The third-seeded Warriors, who finished the first Pacific Coast League season 10-0, rely on 6-8 junior center Adam Keefe, who averages 22.2 points and 12.8 rebounds and shoots 57% from the field. Vince Bryan is shooting 58% from the field for Woodbridge, and Rob Lee is averaging 4.6 assists. The Spartans, third-place representatives from the Desert Valleys League, opened the playoffs with a 69-63 victory over Bloomington in Wednesday night’s wild-card game.

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