Saddleback Gets Nod to Rise Above Parity

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oh say can you see a Sea View League favorite?

No? So what else is new. This is the league with such traditional balance, such relentless parity, that it's become predictably unpredictable.

OK, so there are those who might point out that Saddleback, one of the county's top basketball teams, swept the league at 10-0 last season before going on to the Southern Section 5-AA final. But this season, with Saddleback returning only two part-time starters, the Sea View League is sure to swing back to its usual well-balanced personality.

"We're kind of a boring league," deadpanned Saddleback Coach Pat Quinn. "Balance, balance, balance."

Quinn can make jokes, but don't think he's not concerned. Although the Roadrunners are the two-time defending league champions, they are not as talent-rich as last year and also not as tall.

Still, based on Saddleback's recent history and the fact it seems to continually churn out the league's best athletes, the Roadrunners get the nod as favorites.

A closer look at the league:

CORONA DEL MAR--Last year, the Sea Kings surpassed expectations, playing their way into the Southern Section 3-A final despite finishing as the league's third-place team.

This year, Coach Paul Orris sees all-around improvement.

Jeff Jackson, a 6-4 power forward, and Warren Johnson, a 6-3 guard, are the team's returning starters. Mark Flint, a 5-9 guard; Jon Paulsen, a 6-1 forward, and Doug Hesse, a 6-4 center/forward are the other projected starters.

Hesse, a sophomore who is up from the freshman team, already has great expectations. "He's going to be a real great player by the time he gets through with high school," Orris said. "He could be one of the best we've had in a while."

As always, Corona del Mar will concentrate on stingy defense.

ESTANCIA--The Eagles are probably best known as the league's most scrappy team: small, quick and tenacious. Although Mike Curtis, last year's top scorer with 22 points a game, graduated, Estancia Coach Tim O'Brien believes he has one of the league's best players in senior point guard Augustine (Guty) Heredia.

Heredia is 5-10, 140--"A little whippet," O'Brien said--who in three years as a starter, has never missed a game. Last year, he averaged 15 points a game, but this year that output should increase.

"Oh, he's the best player in the league, no doubt," Tustin Coach Tom McCluskey said.

Paul McDaniels, a 6-1 senior, also returns at guard. Mike Haas, a part-time starter last year, will start at forward.

Newcomers include sophomore forward Matt Fuerbringer, a varsity volleyball player, and junior forward Torrey Hammond, up from the junior varsity. Both are 6-4, perhaps giving Estancia a new dimension.

NEWPORT HARBOR--After three years as an assistant coach, Bob Serven takes over as coach for Jerry DeBusk, who went to Chapman College to assist Bob Boyd.

Newport has the best size in the league with seniors Ian Long (6-7, 280) and Erik Freeman (7-foot, 250). Serven said that Long, an offensive lineman on the school's football team, has improved, as has Freeman, who transferred from Torrey Pines as a sophomore.

Paig Parrish, a 6-foot senior, returns at point guard, and Craig DeBusk, the former coach's son, and Eddie Martinez return after being part-time starters last year.

"Our strengths are shooting, rebounding and we play well together," Serven said. "And we have some size. But we're lacking in depth, not in talent but in numbers. We only have nine on our varsity."

SADDLEBACK--With the graduation of starters Craig Marshall, Malru Dottin, Sean Simon and Tony Agnew, Saddleback suffers a significant drop in talent.

Quinn will rely on seniors Jimmy Galbert, a 6-2 guard and Elton Moore, a 6-3 forward.

Saddleback should still be the quickest team in the league, and will try to continue its domination on the boards. Marco Gomez, a 6-4 senior center, played junior varsity as a sophomore, but didn't play last year to help support his family.

Other probable starters include 6-foot senior guard Andre McFarlane, who is up from the junior varsity and the team's quickest player, and 5-9 senior point guard Liem Nguyen, who had 30 points a game in three consecutive games in the Palm Springs summer tournament.

TUSTIN--Told that some of the league's coaches say his team will be one to watch, Tustin Coach Tom McCluskey chuckles. "Oh, they're crazy. Tell them they must be looking at the wrong team," he said. "We're young, inexperienced, we don't have a proven scorer back . . . but we're definitely better than last year."

Two returning starters are senior forward Jason Moore and junior point guard David Beilstein. Guard Phoung Tran, a part-time player last year, is a probable starter.

Brian Ryder, a 6-6 junior center up from the junior varsity, gives Tustin some much-needed height. "Our inside game is going to improve nine million percent," McCluskey said. "Last year, our biggest player was 6-2. Now at least we have a young, tall guy to build around."

UNIVERSITY--After a year off, Steve Scoggin is back as coach. But not a single starter returns for the Trojans.

"I feel like we're just starting all over again," Scoggin said. "I feel like the new coach at the new school."

Returning lettermen are seniors David German--who has a knee injury that might require surgery this season--Brian Smith and Chris Chase.

Louis Angel, Jay Smith, David Bianco and Brian Vail, who played quarterback on the football team, are all probable starters.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PREVIEW '89

SEA VIEW LEAGUE

1988-89 Overall, League Records in Parentheses SCHOOL: Corona del Mar (20-11, 5-5) '89-'90 COMMENT: Well-balanced with traditionally strong defense

SCHOOL: Estancia (21-6, 6-4) '89-'90 COMMENT: Augustine Heredia is league's best player

SCHOOL: Newport Harbor (13-12, 2-8) '89-'90 COMMENT: Best height in 6-7 Ian Long and 7-0 Erik Freeman

SCHOOL: Saddleback (27-3, 10-0) '89-'90 COMMENT: Two-time defending champion quickest in league

SCHOOL: Tustin (13-13, 3-7) '89-'90 COMMENT: Brian Ryder, 6-6 center, gives Tillers inside game

SCHOOL: University (9-15, 4-6) '89-'90 COMMENT: Young, inexperienced and regrouping

Wednesday: South Coast League

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