For six and a half minutes Friday night, Birmingham guard Panaka Chea was a basket case.
"Going nuts" is how Coach Elliot Turret described Chea's surprising scoring flurry in the Braves' City Section 3-A Division playoff game against Bell. With Birmingham trailing by 19 points early in the fourth quarter, Chea, scoreless until then, started hitting shots from everywhere on the court.
"He just went wild," Turret said. "He got that look in his eye. It was just one of those times in a basketball player's life when everything was going right for him. He would drive the lane, they would cut him off, he would knife through a couple of people, put English on the ball and bank it in.
"He was on fire."
Chea's play ignited the Braves, who scored 33 points--half their point total--in the fourth quarter. When Chea, who finished with 19 points, made a layup and a foul shot with 1:11 to play, Birmingham led for the first time, 66-65.
"He surprised me," Turret said. "He's shown flashes of it, but he hasn't been a scorer. It was inspiring."
But it was not enough. Bell won, 68-66.
Add Birmingham: For all Birmingham's success from the field, it was the Braves' inability to make free throws that ended their season. Birmingham made only 22 of 43 free throws. Bell made 22 of 33, including three in the final minute.
"We had a run of games shooting 70% from the line," Turret said. "I don't know what happened."
The loss typified Birmingham's season in Turret's first year. The Braves were routed their first three games. But the team hit a hot streak, winning 11 of its next 16 games to tie Granada Hills for second in the Northwest Valley League.
Birmingham (11-9) closed the regular season with five consecutive wins, including an impressive 88-57 win over league-champion San Fernando.
The condor flies: North Hollywood Coach Steve Miller does not mince words when describing center Dana Jones, a 6-3 sophomore who scored 20 points, blocked 6 shots and grabbed 8 rebounds in North Hollywood's 56-47 victory over Marshall on Friday night.
"He was tremendous. He was awesome," Miller said. "He was the best player on the floor."
Jones, nicknamed "the Condor" because of his huge wingspan, has scored 35 points in the Huskies' last two games after averaging 8.3 in North Hollywood's first 19 games.
"It's just a matter of him getting confidence in what he can do and us getting him the ball," Miller said.
Jones got the ball often against Marshall because Dominic Nappi, North Hollywood's All-City forward, was double-teamed most of the game and scored only four points.
"I felt that I should start scoring," Jones said. "It was a big game so I felt I needed to contribute more offensively as well defensively."
New meaning: A message on one of Cleveland's scoreboards reads, "Our Mission is Transition," which is intended as testimony to the team's pressing defense and opportunistic, fast-break offense. Now that the Cavaliers have been knocked out of the playoffs, however, it takes on new meaning.
Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell has been forced to set his sights on next season. He should not have much trouble finding a place for forward Trenton Cornelius (6-5, 200), a cousin of 1982 Cleveland graduate Kevin Holmes, a two-time All-City player and a high school All-American who later played at DePaul.
Cornelius, a sophomore, was selected Valley League junior varsity co-player of the year.
"He wears a size 17 shoe," Braswell said. "So if the rest of him catches up, he should be a pretty big kid."
Holmes was 6-8.
The Cavaliers also will have a new guard, Eddie Hill, who transferred to Cleveland this semester from Burroughs. Hill, a 6-0 sophomore, started for the Indians and averaged 16 points a game.
Three Cleveland starters--Adonis Jordan, Warren Harrell and Lucious Harris--will return.
Watts watch: Taft sprinter Quincy Watts received his second set of scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Waiting for the results was tough, and opening the letter was not easy, but in the end Watts got the news he wanted--a 700-plus score.
"Much better," said a beaming Watts, who will start for Taft at guard in a second-round City Section basketball playoff game tonight.
Watts was the state champion at 100 and 200 meters as a junior last year but after receiving low SAT scores a few weeks ago it looked as though he might not meet Proposition 48 eligibility requirements.
Penny wise: L. A. Baptist Coach Maury Neville was not in the mood to make decisions at 8 a.m. Saturday, so when Southern Section administrator Dean Crowley asked Neville to call a coin flip, Neville passed.
"I said, 'No you call it, Dean,' " Neville said. "And he called it right."
By winning the flip, the Knights won the right to be the host team for their Southern Section 1-A playoff game against Brentwood on Friday.
Add Neville: Despite a severe height disadvantage, L. A. Baptist's front line of 6-0 James Hoback, 5-10 Mike Guthrie and 6-1 Brett Craig held Kern Valley's trio of 6-7 Andy Holochwost, 6-4 Jason May and 6-2 Tom Kitto to 36 points--six below their season average--in a 62-50 first-round victory.
But Neville was not ecstatic with his team's defensive effort.
"I don't feel like we played all that well," he said. "The statistics might say we did, but we're capable of playing much better defense. We made some mistakes. They got off some easy shots inside."
Even Neville could not fault his team's offensive output, however. The Knights hit their first nine shots and made 20 of 30 attempts (66.7%) in the game, including 3 of 4 from three-point range. They also made 19 of 25 free throws, including 11 of 14 in the fourth quarter.
Bouncing back: Grant's Sean Watkins and Granada Hills' Jamal Brantley spent most of last week recovering from the flu, but when their teams met Friday in the first round of the City 3-A playoffs, the only people under the weather were the overworked score keepers.
Brantley, who was averaging 9.4 points a game, scored a game-high 22 points in the Highlanders' 66-65 loss. Watkins scored a team-high 18 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
Coaches inquire within: John Reich replaced Dick McLeish as Calabasas athletic director last fall and inherited an office that soon had a revolving door for coaches.
Reich has had to replace four varsity coaches this school year.
Calabasas Coach Bill Bellatty was the latest, announcing Friday night that he is leaving his post as the basketball coach for one year.
Reich also has had to hire three coaches for spring sports.
Bob Wade, last year's softball coach, will coach the baseball team, Wayne Quigley takes over the softball team and Larry Walker has been promoted from assistant to head track coach.
"It's been a domino effect," Reich said. "One coach leaves, and another one our of coaches wants his job, which creates another opening. It's been a busy year."
Staff writers Steve Elling, John Ortega, Chris J. Parker and Sean Waters contributed to this notebook.