GROSSMONT 2-A BASKETBALL PREVIEW : Even Without Clark, Valhalla the Favorite

Valhalla went 6-0 to win the Grossmont 2-A League basketball title last year, and the only thing that should be different this season is that the Norsemen will probably go 8-0 to win it because of the addition of West Hills.

Even after Tony Clark's transfer to Christian, Valhalla was the favorite. Only Grossmont was given much of a chance to challenge the Norsemen, with eight of nine players returning.

But that chance seemed to have disappeared when center Todd Cady, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, quit to concentrate on baseball, and Keith Price, a second-team All-County running back, decided not to play after he injured a knee early.

The Foothillers showed earlier they still might give Valhalla some problems by upsetting Mt. Miguel, 59-56, at Mt. Miguel. Grossmont's biggest hope is that its pressure defense will bother the Norsemen enough to take them out of their game plan. That is what Mt. Miguel did in an easy victory over Valhalla two weeks ago.

The league's other three teams--Santana, El Cajon Valley and Santana--have a combined record of 3-37 thus far.

THE RACE Top contender: Valhalla (17-8 in 1988-89).

Surprise potential: Grossmont (6-17)

Hoping for improvement: El Cajon Valley (3-19), Santana (14-9), West Hills (first year).

Games of the year: Grossmont at Valhalla (Tuesday) and Valhalla at Grossmont (Feb. 2). This is about as close to a big game as it will get this season.

THE PLAYERS The man: Well, it's a Tony, but not the one everyone expected. Valhalla point guard Tony Lee has established himself as the player this season. Tony Clark was supposed to be the most dominant player in the conference since Bill Walton played at Helix, but Clark took his game to nearby Christian, and the Norsemen are feeling it. With both Tonys, Valhalla figured to be one of the county's top teams, but Coach Manny Silva still has something to work with in Lee. He leads the league in scoring with 22.3 points a game, and his two free throws in the final seconds helped Valhalla upset Monte Vista in Spring Valley.

Who will fill Tony Clark's shoes? Any chance Bill Walton has another year of eligibility? Just a thought. Clark averaged 31 points last season and is averaging 43 for Christian this year. Nobody comes close in the county, let alone the Grossmont 2-A League. Lee has taken on the bulk of Clark's offense for Valhalla. But when he's not hitting from the outside, the Norsemen struggle.

Others to watch: With Cady and Price missing, Grossmont has relied on Kevin Simon and Todd Jaeger; Simon is averaging 16.1 points, Jaeger 12.6. Talent in the rest of the league is thin.

THE INTANGIBLES Parting shot: Some thought that when Tony Clark left Division I Valhalla to play at Division V Christian, he would be playing against inferior competition. Maybe in the playoffs, but not in league. The Grossmont 2-A League has only one team over .500 (Valhalla at 11-8), and the other four are a combined 10-44. Christian has joined the newly formed Harbor League, which has four of five members over .500.

A tough hill to climb: West Hills is playing its first year of varsity basketball, and the season is getting to be a long one. The Wolfpack has yet to win a game (0-11) and might be hard pressed to get a league victory. Their best chance appears to be at home against El Cajon Valley Tuesday.

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