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Prep Wednesday : SOUTHERN SECTION BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS : 2-A : He Hopes to Step Beyond Older Brother’s Footsteps

Times Staff Writer

Eleven years ago, as a first-grader at St. John’s Lutheran School in Orange, Pat Bagatourian stood on his tippy-toes and stared through a window of St. John’s gymnasium.

Inside, Orange Lutheran High School’s basketball team was hard at work, preparing itself for what would become its finest season to date.

Watching the Lancers--which had no gym of their own and frequently practiced at St. John’s--came to be one of Bagatourian’s favorite pastimes. Most of his attention, though, focused on a particular player, the star of the team, No. 21, Fred Bagatourian.

“My brother was a big hero to me at a younger age,” Pat Bagatourian said. “He’s not as much anymore. . . . Now, we’re just like real close friends.”

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And close friendly rivals.

Pat Bagatourian, now a senior at Orange Lutheran, is about to break one of his brother’s school records. In the 1977-78 season, Fred Bagatourian shot a school-record 60% from the field.

Pat Bagatourian, who at 17 is 10 years younger, is shooting 62%--with one game to go.

Orange Lutheran (23-3) plays Santa Clara (22-3) in the championship final of the Southern Section 2-A playoffs on Saturday. The game, which begins at 10:30 a.m., will be played at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

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For the Bagatourian family, as well as for the Lancer basketball program, Pat Bagatourian’s success is sweet, and somewhat ironic.

The last time Orange Lutheran made it to a Southern Section championship game was in 1978, with Fred Bagatourian leading the way. Eleven years later, Pat has plenty to do with the Lancers’ success.

In addition, no Orange Lutheran team has won a league championship without a Bagatourian on its roster.

“Yeah, it’s ironic,” said Fred Bagatourian, a project manager for his father’s metal fabrication firm.

“Because as I look back at how Pat’s developed and had his success, it’s ironic that the things were the same for me. They won the (Olympic) league his junior and senior years, my teams won league my junior and senior years.

“But you really can’t pinpoint one ballplayer. They’ve all worked real hard this season.”

That work has translated into the best team record in school history.

Although the Bagatourian brothers are often compared at Orange Lutheran, their main difference is in position. Fred, who is 5-feet-11, played point guard; Pat, 6-2, plays center.

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For that reason, Fred, who made most of his shots from the perimeter, jokingly asks that an asterisk be placed next to the field-goal percentage record his brother is about to set.

Pat’s response?

“Oh, he would say that.”

According to Orange Lutheran Coach Jerry Simmons, who was head coach when Fred Bagatourian was a senior, the strength of both Bagatourians is their intensity.

“Both Pat and his brother have an intense desire to win,” Simmons said. “Pat maybe a little more so. He plays with a lot of heart.”

This was evident throughout the season, but probably most evident in Orange Lutheran’s more important games. In an early-season game against Capistrano Valley, now 23-4 and heading to Saturday’s 5-A final, Bagatourian held his own inside, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

And 2 weeks ago, in the Lancers’ first-round game against Riverside Notre Dame, Bagatourian was double-teamed on the inside against players 6-4 and 6-5. Still, he managed 34 points.

Bagatourian, who is averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds a game, says his intensity is fueled not so much by the desire to win but the fear of losing.

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“I’m scared to lose, I’m scared to death of losing,” Bagatourian said. “There’s something about losing, you feel you failed. It’s like someone got something over you. I hate that feeling. I think I get a lot of that from him (his brother).”

Perhaps it has something to do with a certain memory Bagatourian has of his older brother, one he said he will never forget.

“One of the most vivid memories I have of him is playing in the Long Beach Sports Arena,” he said. “I remember it was his senior year, they were in the semifinals, and he wanted to win so bad, but they lost.

“But what I remember most is when he came home he went into the bathroom and cried. I was about 7 years old, and that was the first time I’d ever seen him cry. It must’ve made a big impression on me.

“I’ve never wanted to lose since.”


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