Morningside forward Kevin Lilley is nicknamed "Smoke," says co-coach Ron Randle, "because he's always blowing hot air."
Lilley not only talks a good game of basketball, he delivers.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior might be the South Bay's best sixth man. He consistently gives the Monarchs a spark off the bench, ranking among team leaders in scoring and rebounding.
"Every time he's entered a game he's had a positive effect," Randle said. "How he goes, we go."
Although not a starter, Lilley has been named to two all-tournament teams. He averaged 25 points in three games last week to help Morningside (8-6) take third place in the Palisades Tournament. He was the only Monarch selected all-tourney.
Lilley again was Morningside's leading scorer with 14 points Tuesday night in a 67-64 loss to Serra.
Randle compares Lilley, a muscular player who was a lineman on the football team, to UC Irvine standout Wayne Engelstad, another burly forward.
"He has big hands and a soft shot," Randle said. "He's a terror on the boards."
Lilley will play a major role in Morningside's bid for a fifth consecutive league title. The Monarchs open Pioneer League play Friday night at Leuzinger (7-4), one of the area's most improved teams. The Olympians were 1-19 a year ago.
"I like the way we're playing," Randle said. "The intensity level is high, team morale is high and the expectations are high."
St. Bernard's basketball team got a close look at some of the nation's top talent last week at the Kingdom of the Sun Tournament in Ocala, Fla.
"It was good for us," said Coach Jim McClune, whose team took fifth place. "The kids got a chance to go against pretty good players."
It was the first time this season that 6-10 center Ed Stokes was able to start for the Vikings. The junior had been sidelined by tendinitis of the hip.
Stokes' indoctrination to big-time prep basketball came against Nichols High of Buffalo, N. Y., and its 6-10 center, Christian Laettner. The Duke recruit had 29 points, but St. Bernard won the fifth-place semifinal game, 83-67. Laettner fell six points short of the tournament scoring record.
"He has to be one of the top four or five big men in the country," McClune said. "Stokes played pretty well against him. His stamina is improving.
"We've been competitive without him, but with him we can be a really good team."
Stokes continued his improvement Tuesday night by scoring a season-high 17 points to lead the Vikings over Pius X, 62-54.
St. Bernard (11-3) figures to need all of its stars in the Angelus League. The Vikings open league play Friday night at Bishop Amat (14-1), which returns four starters and is a title contender.
Said Coach Gary McKnight of defending Angelus champion Mater Dei: "You've got Bishop Amat, which is playing well; St. Paul, Servite, St. Bernard and us. One of them is not going to make the playoffs, and I'd be hard pressed to say which one is not going to go. Injuries will kill you.
"It's like the ACC or the Big East."
Mater Dei (9-3) opens Angelus play Friday night at Bishop Montgomery (6-7), perhaps theleague's weakest team.
Most of the South Bay's best prep wrestlers will compete in the El Camino College Tournament starting Friday afternoon.
The event, which concludes with finals Saturday night, features about 50 teams from California, including defending state champion Victor Valley. Perry High of Oklahoma, last year's tournament champion, will not defend its title.
Torrance, winner of last week's Hacienda Heights Wilson Tournament, tops South Bay entries. The Tartars are led by junior Greg White (108 pounds), named the outstanding wrestler in the lower weights at the Wilson tournament, and two seniors--defending Bay League champs Jeff Clements (122) and James Lopez (147).
West Torrance boasts junior Mike Ramirez (157), who is 32-0 and has placed first in five tournaments. He was named the outstanding wrestler in the upper weights at the Wilson tournament. Ramirez has gone the distance in only two of his 32 matches.
Defending CIF 1-A champion Toby Harris (122) will lead Redondo, while North Torrance has standouts in junior Mike Matsumoto (101) and sophomore Jason Roper (108). Matsumoto was selected the outstanding wrestler at the Mira Costa Tournament two weeks ago. Roper, a transfer from Quartz Hill, placed second in the CIF 2-A meet as a freshman.
Saturday's finals are expected to start at 4 p.m.
Westchester center Zan Mason earned the most valuable player award in last week's Las Vegas Holiday Prep Basketball Classic, but Coach Ed Azzam says point guard Sam Crawford was more deserving.
"Sam Crawford should have been MVP," he said. "Right now Sam is the best player on the team. He's doing everything I want him to do in the framework of our offense. He's getting the ball to the right person."
Mason, a 6-7 junior, won the award after a 33-point, 9-rebound performance in a 74-70 victory over Ballard High of Louisville in the finals.
"The only reason Zan got 33 points is because Sam gave him the ball," Azzam said. "Zan worked hard, but Sam worked hard to get him the ball."
The Comets' fine showing in Las Vegas earned them the No. 21 ranking in this week's USA Today Super 25. They're 12-0.
South Torrance's soccer team, traditionally a power in Southern California, has fallen on hard times.
With Bay League action opening Friday, South co-coach Roger Bryant says the Spartans will be hard-pressed to make the CIF 4-A playoffs. They have missed the playoffs only three times in 20 years.
"The Bay League looks pretty good," Bryant said. "Palos Verdes won the Marina Tournament and West won our tournament. Rolling Hills and Torrance look pretty good. The only one that doesn't look good is us."
South went into Wednesday's game against Miraleste with a 7-8 record, which equals the school mark for most losses in one season.
"We lost eight games once before," Bryant said. "But we never, except after the first game, had less than a .500 record."
Bryant, South's coach for 21 years, says he was caught off guard by the team's poor start.
"I just thought we would be good automatically. It's not like we're having bad luck. We're just not doing the job."
South hopes to turn things around when it plays host to West in a league opener Friday at 3 p.m. It won't be easy, however. West returns several players from last year's CIF 4-A co-championship team, including senior Mike Kafka, perhaps the finest individual in the league.
PREP NOTES--Southland sportswriters cast their first votes of the season in the CIF Southern Section basketball polls, and four South Bay teams found their way into the boys 3-A Division Top 10. West Torrance earned the No. 3 ranking, followed by Rolling Hills (No. 5), Morningside (No. 7) and Palos Verdes (No. 8). St. Bernard was the only area team ranked in 5-A, at No. 3. In girls basketball, Morningside was ranked No. 1 in 5-A . . . Jeff Atkinson, former standout distance runner at Mira Costa, has entered the mile for the Sunkist Invitational track meet Jan. 22 at the Sports Arena. He was seventh in the 1,500 meters last summer at the TAC national championships. Atkinson is part of a strong field that includes American record holder Steve Scott, defending Sunkist champion Dave Campbell of Canada and John Walker of New Zealand . . . Miraleste graduate Krista Amend defeated Christine Schmeidel of Valencia, 6-1, 6-2, in the girls-18 finals to win her third straight Fiesta Bowl singles title.