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The High Schools : Cleveland Refuses to Sit on 58-Point Lead

Holding a 65-7 halftime lead, the Cleveland High basketball team naturally suffered a mental letdown entering the third quarter of the Northwest Valley Conference opener at Canoga Park on Friday.

Coach Bob Braswell, however, did not let his players’ intensity lag for long, according to forward Lucious Harris, who scored a game-high 40 points in the Cavaliers’ 126-29 rout.

“We kind of started to get relaxed after the first half,” Harris said. “But Coach told us, ‘Don’t take nothing for granted.’ So we kept our intensity up and kept playing our game.”

Part of Cleveland’s game included a tenacious full-court press, which the Cavaliers employed from the opening tip-off until the middle of the third quarter. Cleveland (11-2) outscored Canoga Park, 40-6, in the third period to take a 105-13 lead.

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Although Cleveland led by 100 points late in the fourth quarter, Harris felt little sympathy for Canoga Park (2-9).

“We just went out there to play,” he said. “I played hard the entire game and everyone else on the team played extremely well. I had to play my game. I can’t change that for anyone.”

Add rout: Taft Coach Jim Woodard guaranteed that the same scenario would not occur when the Toreadors (11-1) play host to Canoga Park on Wednesday.

“We don’t press when we’re ahead by a lot of points,” Woodard said. “I would not feel comfortable doing that.”

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Add Cleveland: Woodard said that this season’s Cavalier squad might be the best that the Reseda school has produced.

“They’ve got great depth,” Woodard said. “They’ve always been extremely quick and had great guards. But in the past they’ve been hurt inside by teams with good inside people, like Fairfax.

“But this year, they’ve got some very good inside players who can hold their own against other good big men.”

Turnaround: After losing its first 6 games, Reseda has won 2 in a row and 3 of its past 4, including a 71-59 victory over Poly in a Valley Pac-8 Conference opener Friday.

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Jeff Halpern, who is in his first season with Reseda after having coached at Birmingham and Van Nuys, said that the Regents’ swing in fortune is the result of his players gaining confidence.

“We’re starting to learn how to win and how to play the game when we’re ahead,” Halpern said. “Those may sound like some pretty basic things, but they are things that a lot of these kids weren’t used to dealing with.”

Reseda was 1-11 and 2-10 the previous 2 seasons in Valley 4-A League play, and the constant failure took a toll on the team’s psyche.

“They were used to losing and I wasn’t,” said Halpern, who coached Van Nuys to a 21-3 record in 1985 and Birmingham to a 22-3 mark in ’87. “Getting the kids to believe in themselves was one of the first things I started working on.”

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Life after Handschu?: Montclair Prep’s Craig Handschu underwent knee surgery last week and the senior guard is expected to miss the rest of the season. Mountie co-Coach Bob Webb is wondering how he will replace Handschu’s 28 points a game.

“It’s like starting over again,” Webb said. “Everybody’s going to have to try harder to make up for the lost scoring and to try to keep the other team’s scoring down.”

Without Handschu, Montclair Prep (10-5) was walloped by Alpha League rival L. A. Baptist, 66-47, Friday night.

Handschu, the state’s highest scoring returning guard, injured his left knee 2 weeks ago and underwent surgery to repair a torn tendon and cartilage and remove a bone chip. He’ll wear a leg brace for 3 to 6 weeks, but a return to the team this season is unlikely.

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