Pam Walker may have struck a blow for fashion, communal dinners and the benefits of baked muffins, but her immediate legacy in the Santa Clarita Valley has been assured as the woman who changed Hart High basketball.
Four years ago, Walker inherited a moribund girls’ program that had not produced a playoff team since 1972 and transformed the Indians into the Valley-area’s most successful team in 1988-89. En route to a 26-3 record, Hart won the Foothill League title and the Southern Section 5-A Division championship and became the area’s only team to win a section title and advance to the state tournament this season .
Appropriately, Hart has the largest contingent of players on this season’s Times All-Valley basketball teams. Senior Nikki Brodowy and junior Sara Wilson are first-team selections and senior Nicole Anthony and freshman Anjanette Dionne were selected to the second team.
The Reseda girls’ team and the Cleveland boys’ team each had three representatives among the 40 players chosen.
Walker fashioned a winner at Hart through a combination of big-sister friendliness and strict discipline. She prepared pregame team dinners and often surprised her players with freshly baked muffins. But she demanded proper behavior off the court and established a dress code--literally--on game day.
When the players assembled for the team photo, the girls slipped into their uniforms--black skirts, red silk blouses, nylon stockings and high-heeled shoes.
Of course, Hart’s success relied on more than proper attire. The lineup included four-year players Desa Pecel, Kim Posey and Anthony and was buoyed by the addition of leading scorer Wilson and Brodowy, the league MVP.
Halfway through the season, the team received a boost when Dionne emerged as one of the best point guards in the area. Dionne seemed unfazed by playoff pressure and displayed the ballhandling skills that she developed while playing on boys’ all-star teams in youth leagues.
Hart’s road to the Southern Section title included a dramatic 78-68 overtime victory over Buena, a perennial Southern Section power. After the Indians dispatched Santa Barbara in the final, 63-49, they advanced to the semifinals of the Southern California regional where they lost to Point Loma, 54-47.
Walker greeted the end of the season with disappointment, saying that she would miss her association with the players.
“If I had my choice, I’d practice with them 365 days a year and never have a game,” she said. “That’s the time I really enjoy spending with them.”
Among other 1988-89 season highlights:
* The conclusion of a remarkable relationship between Oakwood High in North Hollywood and Mitchell Butler.
Oakwood is a private school with an enrollment of 220 students at the high school level. The school caters to well-to-do college-bound students and offers a rigorous academic environment in which sports are an afterthought.
Butler, a scholarship student from a working-class family in Inglewood, altered that as the star of the Gorillas. Oakwood students put the books aside after school to watch one of the Valley-area’s best players. Often, Butler transformed Oakwood games into a one-man slam-dunk contest.
Given the vast talent gap between Butler and the Liberty League opposition, it is not surprising that he compiled impressive statistics. He led area players in scoring (29.6) and rebounding (16.2) and also averaged 4.6 assists. He was last year’s Times Valley Player of the Year and won the same award in the Southern Section’s Small Schools Division as a junior.
His most memorable performance came in last year’s Small Schools championship game in which he scored 47 points in Oakwood’s 61-60 victory over Hesperia Christian. In his final game this season, he scored a school-record 55 points--24 in the fourth quarter--in an 83-74 loss to Southern California Christian in the quarterfinals of the 1-A playoffs.
Butler is not lost to the area for good. The versatile 6-foot-5, 195-pound guard has signed to play next season at UCLA.
* The emergence of Brent Lofton.
Three years ago Lofton enrolled at El Camino Real as a 6-foot sophomore and rode the bench for half a season. He returned the following season five inches taller and earned All-City and All-Valley honors after averaging 21.7 points and 11.7 rebounds.
As a senior he enjoyed a solid if unspectacular season until the playoffs, when he elevated his game and took home the City Section 3-A Division Player of the Year award. He averaged 23.7 points and 12.2 rebounds and leaves El Camino Real as the school’s all-time leading scorer (1,009 points) and second-leading rebounder (556).
He might have wrapped up the City 3-A award when he nearly engineered an upset of Fremont in the semifinals. El Camino Real lost, 66-63, but Lofton scored 34 points and had 15 rebounds. Tyrone Phillips, Fremont’s player-of-the-year candidate, scored 11 points.
* The strange case of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Under four-year Coach Bob Braswell, Cleveland has become the top program in the Valley. The Cavaliers were ranked No. 2 in the state during the season and finished as the Valley’s top team in The Times’ poll. The Cavaliers waltzed to the North Valley League title with a 10-0 record and stomped Canoga Park in a Northwest Valley Conference game by 97 points.
But for the second consecutive season, Cleveland stumbled in the City 4-A playoffs. Last season, the Cavaliers lost in the first round to Fremont and a year later fell, 53-51, in the second round to Fairfax, a team the Cavaliers had beaten by 38 points in the regular season.
“At times, we just weren’t out there,” a baffled Braswell said afterward. “I don’t know what goes through kids’ minds. Maybe they hear ‘You’re gonna win, you’re gonna win’ so often at school that they start to believe it.”
Nikki Brodowy: The 6-0 senior forward earned the Foothill League’s most valuable player award and helped key Hart’s drive to the school’s first Southern Section basketball title. Two years removed from a winless league season, Hart won the 5-A title and advanced to the Southern California regional semifinals. Brodowy averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Michelle Cabaldon: A three-year starter, North Hollywood’s Cabaldon shared the Mid-Valley league MVP award with Reseda’s Cheryl Hightower. She scored 29 points--18 in the second half--in North Hollywood’s win over Reseda that gave the Huskies the league co-championship with the Regents. The senior guard averaged 14.8 points overall but 17.2 in league games.
Sylvia Castaneda: A second-team All-Valley selection last season, Castaneda, a senior guard, averaged 11 points and six assists for the San Fernando Valley League champions. Her role changed during the season from off-guard to point guard, and she was asked to do everything from bringing the ball upcourt to posting up underneath. She scored 25 points in Alemany’s win over Hart in the Santa Barbara tournament in December.
Dawn Coleman: Another versatile player, Coleman was equally adept at playing with her back to the basket or on the perimeter. The senior forward averaged 19.1 points and led the team in rebounds with a 13.3 average. She is one of the reasons the Golden Cougars extended their league unbeaten streak to 13 seasons.
Cheryl Hightower: The 5-7 guard completed a three-year varsity career with her most well-rounded season. She shared the Mid-Valley League MVP award after averaging 16 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and four steals for the Regents, league co-champions. Hightower has signed to play with Cal State Fullerton.
Andrea Hoffman: After leading the Indians in scoring (18.6) and rebounding (12.0), Hoffman won the S. F. Valley League MVP award. The four-year starter scored more than 20 points in 10 games this season and led the Indians (19-6) to the quarterfinal round of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs.
Jennifer Marzahl: Besides averaging 17 points and 14 rebounds, Marzahl earned Coach Andrea Francola’s praise as the team’s best player in the clutch. She averaged 19.3 points in three playoff games and keyed Reseda’s victory over Kennedy in the City 4-A playoffs. The senior forward’s best sport may be volleyball: She was an all-league player last year as a junior.
Falicia Stanley: The Valley-area’s most flashy player and one of three non-seniors on the all-star team, Stanley averaged 22.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.1 steals and 4.3 assists. With fellow junior Lupe Fujarte returning, the Golden Cougars will boast the area’s best pair of guards next season.
Sara Wilson: The 6-3 junior forward formed half of the area’s best brother-sister combination. Brett is a second-team All-Valley selection and led the Indians to a second-place finish in the Foothill League and a playoff berth. Sara lived up to her preseason All-American billing, averaging 17.4 points and 12.1 rebounds for the Southern Section champion Indians.
Soo Yoon: The best thing that happened to the Canoga Park program was the arrival on campus last year of a pair of twin sisters from South Korea. Soo and her sister Joo showed up for practice with limited English skills but ample basketball talent. Joo is a 5-6 point guard and Soo is a 5-10 center. The pair led the Hunters to the West Valley title and a berth in semifinals of the City 3-A playoffs. Soo averaged 19.0 points and 10 rebounds and was the league’s MVP.
Randy Brown: The surprise player in the Valley area, Brown was a virtual unknown before the season started. But he emerged as Kennedy’s best player and won first-team recognition from North Valley League coaches. He averaged 20.3 points and was one of the area’s top defenders among inside players. He has yet to settle on a college to continue his career.
Mitchell Butler: Oakwood’s Mr. Everything was last year’s Times Valley Player of the Year, and he was just as good as a senior. He led area players in scoring (29.6) and rebounding (16.2) and also averaged 4.6 assists. A career in the Small Schools Division of the Southern Section failed to conceal Butler from basketball scouts. He has signed to play at UCLA next season and has been selected to play in next month’s prestigious McDonald’s all-star game.
Lucious Harris: In Cleveland’s democratic offense, Harris still managed to dominate offensively. He averaged 20.9 points and was named the most valuable player in the 30-team Las Vegas Holiday tournament. He was named the North Valley League’s MVP and led Cleveland to the No. 1 ranking in the Valley area. He was one of three Cavaliers to sign a college letter of intent before his senior season and will play for Cal State Long Beach in 1989-90.
Kenny Hicks: A foot injury in December limited Hicks to 16 games for Notre Dame, but he closed with a flourish and finished among the top 15 scorers in the area with a 20.0 average. He was also the eighth-leading playmaker (6.1 assists) and was the tallest player (6-4) to average more than six assists a game. Hicks, one of the most intelligent players on the All-Valley team, signed early with Stanford.
Brian Jones: Expected to share the offensive load at Notre Dame with Hicks, Jones eclipsed his teammate and led the Knights to the San Fernando Valley League title. He was the area’s second-leading scorer, averaging 25.9 points. He and Kennedy’s Brown might be the best area players who have yet to sign with a four-year college.
Dana Jones: The only junior on the all-star team also might be the best defender. He was the area’s second-leading rebounder with a 13.9 average and the unofficial leader in blocked shots with a 6.0 average. He also scored 20.1 points and averaged 4.7 assists. Jones led North Hollywood to the Mid-Valley League title and was named league MVP. He is also an All-City 3-A Division selection.
Adonis Jordan: Cleveland’s senior guard made the most of his move from New York, winning All-Valley honors in both of his seasons with the Cavaliers. After averaging 13.8 points as a junior, he elevated his output to 18.4 points. He never achieved his goal of a City title but he realized his goal of a college scholarship when he signed with Kansas.
Brent Lofton: El Camino Real’s all-time leading scorer, Lofton led the Conquistadores to the semifinal round of the City Section 3-A playoffs and this week was named the 3-A Player of the Year. He averaged 23.7 points and 12.2 rebounds. His 1,009 career points broke the school record and he ranks second in rebounds with 556. He signed early with Utah State.
Nick Sanderson: He was the area’s sixth-leading scorer (23.5) and Bell-Jeff’s steadiest player. Sanderson was a second-team All-Valley selection last year and led the Guards in scoring two years in a row. He is the third senior on the All-Valley team who has yet to sign with a four-year college.
Dedan Thomas: The Valley’s most talented point guard, Thomas led Taft in assists (9.1) and steals (5.3) and committed only 63 turnovers in 22 games for an assist-turnover ratio of better than 3 to 1. Thomas is more than just a passer. He also led the Toreadors in scoring (18.4) and twice narrowly missed engineering upsets of Cleveland. He signed early with Nevada Las Vegas.
The all-star boys and girls teams, each consisting of 10 members, their coaches and parents will be guests of The Times at 9 a.m. Sunday, April 2, at the annual Times High School Basketball Awards Brunch where all-stars teams from 12 circulation areas will be honored at the Anaheim Hilton. The featured speaker will be George Yardley, a former All-American at Stanford University, who went on to become the first player ever to score more than 2,000 points in an NBA season. The players and the coaches of the year from each area will be announced.
Selections were based on the observations of staff writers and a poll of area coaches who were asked to fill out ballots nominating their own players and those of their opponents. Each player will receive the traditional Times golden basketball plaque and award certificate. BOYS TEAM Name: Randy Brown School: Kennedy Year: Senior Height: 6-5 Average: 20.3 Name: Mitchell Butler School: Oakwood Year: Senior Height: 6-5 Average: 29.6 Name: Lucious Harris School: Cleveland Year: Senior Height: 6-5 Average: 20.9 Name: Kenny Hicks School: Notre Dame Year: Senior Height: 6-4 Average: 20.0 Name: Brian Jones School: Notre Dame Year: Senior Height: 6-4 Average: 25.9 Name: Dana Jones School: North Hollywood Year: Junior Height: 6-5 Average: 20.1 Name: Adonis Jordan School: Cleveland Year: Senior Height: 6-0 Average: 18.4 Name: Brent Lofton School: El Camino Real Year: Senior Height: 6-5 Average: 23.7 Name: Nick Sanderson School: Bell-Jeff Year: Senior Height: 6-4 Average: 23.5 Name: Dedan Thomas School: Taft Year: Senior Height: 5-11 Average: 18.4 GIRLS TEAM Name: Nikki Brodowy School: Hart Year: Senior Height: 6-0 Average: 13.5 Name: Michelle Cabaldon School: North Hollywood Year: Senior Height: 5-9 Average: 14.8 Name: Sylvia Castaneda School: Alemany Year: Senior Height: 5-9 Average: 11.0 Name: Dawn Coleman School: Kennedy Year: Senior Height: 5-9 Average: 19.1 Name: Cheryl Hightower School: Reseda Year: Senior Height: 5-7 Average: 16.0 Name: Andrea Hoffman School: Alemany Year: Senior Height: 6-0 Average: 18.6 Name: Jennifer Marzahl School: Reseda Year: Senior Height: 5-10 Average: 17.0 Name: Falicia Stanley School: Kennedy Year: Junior Height: 5-6 Average: 22.3 Name: Sara Wilson School: Hart Year: Junior Height: 6-3 Average: 17.4 Name: Soo Yoon School: Canoga Park Year: Sophomore Height: 5-10 Average: 19.0 ALL-VALLEY BOYS’ SECOND TEAM
Pos. Name School Ht. Yr. Avg. F Alvin Brown Granada Hills 6-4 Sr. 18.5 G Rick Garrick Chatsworth 6-1 Sr. 20.0 F Warren Harrell Cleveland 6-6 Sr. 10.1 C Jason Henderson Faith Baptist 6-10 Sr. 16.8 F Coley Kyman Reseda 6-5 Sr. 14.1 G Marcus Littlejohn Sherman Oaks CES 6-0 Sr. 24.7 G Chris McGee Crespi 6-2 Sr. 12.6 F Tony Middleton Taft 6-5 Sr. 14.6 F Dan Murphy Burroughs 6-2 Sr. 22.4 F Brett Wilson Hart 6-4 Sr. 23.2
ALL-VALLEY GIRLS’ SECOND TEAM
Pos. Name School Ht. Yr. Avg. C Nicole Anthony Hart 6-0 Sr. 7.4 C Danielle Bryce Louisville 6-0 So. 19.0 F Chrissi Burnap Notre Dame 5-11 Sr. 16.2 G Sarah Dancs Bell-Jeff 5-7 Sr. 9.0 G Anjanette Dionne Hart 5-6 Fr. 7.8 C Aggie Garcia Reseda 5-11 Sr. 14.2 F Alex Guidi El Camino Real 5-8 Sr. 12.0 F Ericka Miller Chatsworth 5-8 Sr. 18.0 C Claudia Rocha North Hollywood 6-0 Jr. 17.8 C Stacie Toon Van Nuys 6-0 Jr. 15.0