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As Leagues Open, 3 Boys’ Basketball Teams Stand Out

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Torrey Pines High School didn’t lose a game this season until it left the state last week. Poway has yet to lose and Lincoln has lost once--to Poway last month.

Talk to area experts about San Diego boys’ high school basketball this season, and these teams dominate the conversation.

Torrey Pines established itself by winning its first eight games by an average of 30 points and then won the Lt. Mitchell tournament, which featured some top local talent as well as teams from Las Vegas and Alaska. The Falcons (13-1) are led by Courtie Miller, who has signed to attend San Diego State, and Kevin Flanagan, who has committed to Arizona.

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The lone loss was 68-32 last Friday to Miami Carol City in the Palms tournament in Ft. Myers, Fla. Carol City was rated eighth in the nation by USA Today and featured a front line consisting of a 7-foot center and two 6-foot 10-inch forwards. But there was a bright spot the night before when Torrey Pines defeated perennial national power Dunbar (Washington, D.C.), 67-65.

Torrey Pines Coach John Farrell dismisses talk of his club being No. 1 in the county.

“I don’t know if we’re No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3,” Farrell said. “I’m not worried about polls. We want to win our last game. We’re just trying to be the best team we can be.”

That’s good enough to worry those who remain on the Torrey Pines’ schedule. In the Palomar League, Torrey Pines’ toughest competition figures to be undefeated Poway.

“I’m pleased overall, but I think we can do better,” said Neville Saner, Poway’s coach. “But I didn’t anticipate being 12-0.”

Senior guard Jay Blankenbeckler directs a well-balanced Poway team that counts on all five starters to score. “We have more balance than last year and more than the year before,” Saner said.

Poway gave Lincoln (13-1) its only loss of the season, 65-56 at Poway.

“I think Poway is extremely well-coached,” Lincoln Coach Ron Loneski said. “I have a lot of respect for Neville Saner. They’re disciplined. I think we’re a better team than Poway, but they beat us. That night, they were a better team than us.”

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Lincoln has collected as much hardware as anyone in the county early in the season. The Hornets have won three tournaments: the Warhawk/Norseman, the Kiwanis (for the second consecutive year) and the Santana.

“I’m very happy at this point,” Loneski said. “We’re a little ahead of where I thought we’d be.”

Despite a relatively difficult pre-City Central League schedule, Lincoln is averaging 91 points a game and allowing 67. Senior forward-guard Joe Temple is averaging 24.4 points a game, senior center Aaron Willhite 22.2 and junior forward Darryl McMillan 16.0.

“McMillan has made the difference,” Loneski said. “He’s made Joe and Aaron better ballplayers. If we had had him last year, we wouldn’t have lost the state championship.”

Ask other county coaches about the state of affairs as 1989 begins, and they also mention Torrey Pines, Poway and Lincoln.

“I think Lincoln can put the most physically skilled athletes on the floor, but Poway and Torrey Pines might have better basketball players,” said Rick Eveleth, La Jolla’s coach.

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Said Sweetwater Coach David Ybarra: “Torrey Pines (Division I) and Lincoln (Division II), in their classifications, are the teams to beat.”

Several others fall into place behind this group.

In the Palomar League, Orange Glen and Mt. Carmel are waiting in the wings behind Torrey Pines and Poway.

“Mt. Carmel is a good club,” Saner said. “Mt. Carmel should be more highly regarded than they are.”

The talent in the 3-A Palomar League should this year overshadow its North County 2-A counterpart--the Avocado. El Camino, Oceanside, Escondido and San Pasqual lead that balanced league.

In the City Central, San Diego and Crawford will be Lincoln’s chief competition.

“Lincoln has more talent than I’ve seen in a long, long time,” said John King, Crawford coach. “San Diego is outstanding this year also. And we’re playing better than we expected. We’ve got a tremendous amount of maturity.”

At 10-2, Crawford seems in position to challenge Lincoln in the City Central. Senior guard Chris Johnson is averaging 21.3 points a game, and Tracy Halton has been scoring 20.

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Although Southwest (10-5, 2-0) has been one of the year’s surprises, the top team in the South Bay is Sweetwater (14-1, 3-0).

“We’re coming together and playing real well,” Ybarra said. “It’s a real good group of guys, and we’re getting better every day.”

Junior forward Joe McDowell and junior guard Carlos Campbell are each averaging nearly 15 points a game for Sweetwater, whose only loss came at the hands of University City, 74-56.

“But the guys bounced back from that loss,” Ybarra said. “We’re confident but not cocky. We believe we can be a better team.”

Southwest has impressed more than a few coaches with a strong inside-outside combination. Point guard Adalberto Silva leads the quick attack, Will Tate scores and the Balsey brothers, Art and Alex, can shoot well from outside.

La Jolla (8-3), which lost in the Hilltop tournament final to Sweetwater, 65-63, is the consensus favorite in the City Western League, although Kearny and University City are strong and Clairemont, with high-scoring Ray McDavid, cannot be counted out.

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Senior swingman Adam Kleid (21.1 points a game) and senior guard David Berteaux (18.3) lead La Jolla.

Madison (8-6) is starting slower than many expected, but by season’s end the Warhawks may be one of the county’s top teams. Robbie Robinson (31 points a game) is the lone returning player who had a significant role last season, and Coach Jim Thompson said his team is playing the best schedule he can remember.

Madison’s six losses are to Southwest (twice), Valhalla, Lincoln, Kearny and Mt. Carmel.

Morse, Patrick Henry and Point Loma are other City Eastern League teams to watch.

The strongest East County team figures to be Valhalla (8-5) of the 2-A Grossmont League. Like Madison, Valhalla’s record is deceiving because of a brutal schedule. The Norsemen have lost to Lincoln twice, to Patrick Henry by 2 points and to Morse by 1.

Tony Clark is scoring 27.1 points a game for Valhalla, and Rafid Kiti is averaging 24.3.

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