Simi Valley Returns in a Jolly Mood

The cold, blustery winter season in Alaska seems fit for only an Eskimo or a fat, bearded fellow en route to the North Pole.

But Simi Valley High found comfort, as well as success, in the eight-team Douglas boys' basketball tournament in Juneau. Simi Valley reached the championship final, losing to host Douglas, 65-56, Monday. And the Pioneers seldom have had more fun.

"They said (Monday) if you don't have a ticket, don't bother showing up for the finals," Coach Dean Bradshaw said. "This tournament is great. It's the only show in town. You sit by old women on the bus and they're talking about it. It's unbelievable."

The final was played before a standing-room-only crowd of 2,500. Tournament organizers paid each school $2,000 and provided room and board, so Simi Valley needed to raise money for only air fare.

"The people that have organized this are so together that every base has been touched," Bradshaw said.

Simi Valley senior forward Danny Alexander won the slam-dunk contest, also in front of a standing-room-only crowd. Later, he and teammate Luis Lopez worked on their snow-bunny routines.

"They were out in the snow in their uniforms doing defensive slides on the ice," Bradshaw said with a laugh. "The kids really had a great time."

EN GARDE Tonight's Channel League basketball opener between Buena and Hueneme includes a matchup of two of the region's finest guards.

Senior Lance Fay (6-foot-1), a second-team All-Southern Section Division I selection last season, is averaging 30.1 points for Buena (6-4). Hueneme counters with junior Tony Smith (6-0), whom Hueneme Coach Howard Davis considers "70% of our offense."

Smith averaged 18 points, five assists and five steals last season but has been in and out of trouble this season. Smith was suspended for two games because he violated team rules. Hueneme (7-4) is 1-2 without him in the lineup.

Smith scored 21 in the Vikings' 89-87 victory over San Diego Vista on Monday in the third-place game of the Anaheim Canyon tournament.

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

For the second time in as many basketball tournament finals, a key technical foul hampered Chatsworth's chances of winning a championship trophy.

On Saturday, Coach Sandy Greentree was whistled for a technical foul in the Chaminade tournament final against Riordan of San Francisco. Chatsworth held a 39-31 lead when Greentree complained too ardently about a foul call. "They made both ends of the one-and-one, made the free throws from the technical, and before I knew it, it was 41-all," Greentree said. "The momentum totally changed."

In the North Hollywood tournament final two weeks ago, point guard Chris Dunbar called a timeout with nine seconds remaining after Chatsworth controlled a rebound. Chatsworth trailed by three points and had possession at the time, but the Chancellors were assessed a technical foul because their allotment of timeouts had been exhausted.

North Hollywood's Robert Hill made one of two free throws and the Huskies held on, 60-58.

EVER-CHANGING ROLE

Ask and you shall receive.

That's all North Hollywood basketball Coach Steve Miller had to do change the role of Hill, a senior guard.

Hill, a third-year starter, led the Huskies last season in scoring with an 18.6 average. But, this season Miller wants Hill to change his role to play-maker.

Miller is grooming Hill to be a point guard in college and is encouraging him to work on ballhandling and passing. "Last year we needed him to score because we didn't have so many scorers," Miller said. "This year we need him to do something else and he's doing it. He adjusts to whatever situation we need, and that makes him a very good ballplayer."

HEALTH WOES

Despite an outbreak of flu that has affected nearly all of its basketball players and coaches, Oxnard (4-5) already has surpassed its victory total of last season when the team was 3-21. Now, however, the Yellowjackets must overcome the loss of a second returning starter.

Senior center Corey Upchurch (6-6), who averages 10 points a game, will be out of action at least three weeks after he sustained strained ligaments and a chipped bone in his right ankle Dec. 13. Senior guard David Dickey, a returning starter, already had sustained a season-ending knee injury.

"(Upchurch) was really coming on and was having a pretty good season, so it hurts," Coach Henry Lobo said.

Oxnard now must rely on its talented core of juniors, from which it will draw 6-2 forward Matt Gonzales to replace Upchurch. Including guards Larry Bumpus and Brian Gallardo, the Yellowjackets now have three juniors in the starting lineup.

COMING AROUND

Ventura basketball Coach Dan Larson expected impressive play this season from 6-3 junior forward Curt Vaughan, who led the Cougars in scoring in summer-league play. But Vaughan was somewhat slow out of the chute and scored only 46 points through Ventura's first eight games.

He shined in the Ventura tournament last week, however, scoring 46 points in three games--including 12 of his game-high 20 in the fourth quarter of a 74-62 victory over Thousand Oaks. Vaughan scored six in the final two minutes.

Vaughan, who averages 9.9 points and is the team's leading rebounder with a 7.5 average, was named to the all-tournament team.

"He was a little slow getting going, but he had a very good tournament," Larson said. " We're expecting even more as he gets going."

COACHING TIP

Thousand Oaks nearly received some unexpected coaching help--from a referee, of all people--in the opening round of the Ventura basketball tournament. The Lancers lined up along the key when referee Rick Scott, the Buena football coach, noticed that only four Thousand Oaks players were on the floor.

"Coach you need one more," Scott said to Lancer Coach Ed Chevalier.

Chevalier responded by asking Scott whom he should put in the lineup. "Who do I need?" Chevalier asked. Scott chuckled and declined to choose Chevalier's substitute. The Lancers won, 59-52.

BRAVE HEARTS

Birmingham (6-5) already has won as many basketball games as it did in the 1990-91 season, but that is not why Coach Al Bennett calls this team "the best I've ever coached."

"Every kid has a big heart," Bennett said. "They always show a lot of heart no matter what happens. They're always intense. It's a real team. The kids have roles and they play them."

The Braves had won four consecutive games before losing Monday to Kennedy, 50-43, in the final of the Birmingham tournament. It was the longest win streak in Bennett's three seasons with the team.

"It's taken me three years to get where we are," Bennett said. "I've had to get rid of some kids, but what we have left are kids that are committed with great heart. I want to build something that perpetuates itself."

EMPTY HEARTS

Grant Coach Howard Levine thinks he has lost in his team what Bennett seems to have found.

The Lancers (6-5) already have lost more games than in either of the past two seasons. Levine's past two teams posted 19-3 and 22-4 records. But it isn't the losses that have rattled the coach.

"On my teams, I've always had guys pushing hard at practice and that's why we've won some ballgames," he said. "But, I can't seem to get through to these guys to practice hard."

Grant had won 31 consecutive Valley Pac-8 Conference games before losing to Van Nuys in the Lancers' first conference game of the season.

ON THE MEND

Crescenta Valley's Josh Willis is enduring a painful beginning to what looked to be a promising senior season.

Willis, a 6-foot-6 All-Pacific League guard, has been hampered by a pulled muscle in his back since he felt a twinge while making a dunk in the Burbank-Hoover tournament three weeks ago. Willis has visited a doctor, a physical therapist and has tried everything from a week's rest to various stretching exercises.

So far, nothing has been able to ease the pain. "He's beginning to become a little down about it," Coach John Goffredo said. "The problem is, this is his senior year and he doesn't want to take time off. In his defense, he's still our leading scorer."

Willis is averaging 22.5 points in 12 games. After a 5-0 start, Crescenta Valley is 7-6.

TENSE MOMENT

The Alemany girls' basketball team had more trouble in the air than in the gym last weekend. The Indians (12-3) competed in the Duncanville (Texas) tournament and won the consolation title.

Flying to and from Los Angeles and Houston was an entirely different experience, however.

Alemany's flight to Houston was characterized by Coach Melissa Melton as "one of the bumpiest I've ever been on." But the return trip proved to be even more alarming. Coming into Los Angeles in the midst of Sunday's rainstorm, the plane was struck by lightning.

"It hit right on the wing outside my window," Melton said. "Some of our girls had never been on a plane before. You could hear a lot of screams on board. We got off the plane and even the pilot was shook up."

SOCCER GAUGE

The San Fernando boys' soccer team hopes to find just how good it is the Simi Valley tournament this week. San Fernando, which won the Hart tournament Saturday with a 2-0 win over Saugus, was 9-0-2, 5-0-1 in the Northwest Valley Conference entering the Simi Valley tournament.

The Tigers overwhelmed four opponents by a combined 16-2 score in the Hart tournament, including a 9-0 win over Canyon in the opening round.

San Fernando plays a style that Coach Arturo Vazquez calls "Toro Soccer," explaining that "everyone attacks and everyone defends." Senior forwards Hector Molina and Favian Galvan have been the top attackers, but San Fernando got goals from midfielders Luis Orozco and Oscar Arevalo against Saugus. Defensively, San Fernando has received strong play from fullback Gus Cordero, sweeper Flip Aguilar and goalkeeper Juan Gomez.

PAINFUL LOSS

The Palmdale girls' basketball team was glad to get senior point guard Kim Schielke back in the lineup Saturday for the first round of the Thousand Oaks tournament. With Schielke out of the lineup the previous week because of a sprained ankle, the Falcons lost four consecutive games. But Schielke returned with 17 points to key a 56-26 first-round win over Santa Paula.

The Falcons were beating Cerritos, 20-4, in the first half during the opening round of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions on Dec. 19 when Schielke turned an ankle.

Without Schielke, an All-American, Palmdale collapsed and lost, 42-36, in overtime. With Issia Lincoln, a 6-3 sophomore center, and Alexis Coupland, a 5-9 junior guard, sidelined with flu, the Falcons were down to just seven players for the rest of the tournament. Lincoln and Coupland are also back for the Thousand Oaks tournament.

David Coulson, Vince Kowalick and staff writers Steve Elling, Paige A. Leech and Jeff Riley contributed to this notebook.

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