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DIVISION III : Sonora Hopes to Have a Team for This Decade

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every decade, Sonora puts together a basketball team capable of winning a Southern Section championship. Or so it seems.

In 1971, Dave Meyers led the Raiders to the 2-A title. In 1984, Jon and Eric Samuelson guided them to another 2-A title.

Are you paying attention, Chris St. Clair?

This year, it could be St. Clair’s turn to take the Raiders all the way. They begin play in Division III-AA on Friday, when they play host to Azusa.

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St. Clair, the Raiders’ point guard, averages 22.2 points and 6.3 assists. He set the school’s career-scoring record this season, and last week he broke the school’s single-game scoring record with a 40-point performance against La Habra.

He could follow in the rather large footsteps of Meyers and the Samuelsons.

“I think we have the complete package this year,” Coach Mike Murphy said. “We have a point guard and legitimate center. We’re as good as anybody.”

They will have to be to become Sonora’s team of the ‘90s.

The division includes Inglewood Morningside, the defending III-AA champion. The Monarchs have three players who have signed with Division I schools: Stais Boseman (USC), Dominic Ellison (Washington State) and Corey Saffold (Oklahoma).

After the Monarchs, the field becomes a little more balanced.

Torrance Bishop Montgomery, South Torrance and Santa Margarita are the other seeded teams. Bellflower, Estancia and Western also have solid teams.

Then there’s Sonora (22-3), the Freeway League champion.

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“We really want to do well to get some respect back for North Orange County,” Murphy said.

Only three North County teams have won section titles in the last 10 years: Servite in 1991, Kennedy in 1988 and Sonora in 1983. Mater Dei generally gets three in three seasons.

Murphy knows North County teams sometimes don’t command much respect.

“People look down on the Freeway League and I don’t think it’s justified,” he said. “I’ve had coaches tell me that we wouldn’t have finished higher than fourth in the Sea View League.”

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The Raiders have a mission, according to Murphy.

“Losing in the first round would be a terrible way to end the season,” Murphy said.

Sonora did just that last season, falling to Newport Harbor in the first round. That served to whet the Raiders’ appetite. They got set to accomplish more--a lot more.

“The kids said before the season they were going to go 10-0 in league,” Murphy said. “I said, ‘That’s great, but let’s keep that goal to ourselves.’ They went around and told anyone who would listen. Now we’re in the playoffs and they viewed that as our next step.”

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To continue, the Raiders will have to get strong play from St. Clair’s support group.

Center Chris Campbell (15.2 points, 6.3 rebounds per game) will have to be more consistent and stay out of foul trouble. Forward Peter Lythgoe (14.0, 6.4) will have to continue his steady play.

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In the III-A, there may be a repeat of last season’s finale, when La Canada beat San Dimas, 62-53.

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San Dimas is seeded first and is led by forward Brad Alley and guard Jeremy Veal. La Canada is seeded second and is led by 6-foot-11 Richard Mandeville, who has signed with Indiana.

Only two Orange County teams are in the division. Rancho Alamitos will open against La Canada and Pacifica will open with third-seeded Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

Division III-AA at a Glance

Defending champion: Inglewood Morningside.

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Top teams: Morningside, Torrance Bishop Montgomery, South Torrance, Santa Margarita.

Dark horse: Bellflower. A solid team with four players averaging in double figures.

Top players: Stais Boseman (Morningside), Chris Beerman (Cathedral City), Chris Campbell (Sonora), Dwight Curry (Morningside), Adam Dzierzynski (Santa Margarita), Dominic Ellison (Morningside), Andre English (Bishop Montgomery), Jim Faulkner (Estancia), Frank Floyd (Western), Kyle McIntosh (South Torrance), Damion Mobley (Pomona), Chad Murray (Fullerton), Joe Phears (Pomona), David St. Clair (Sonora), Corey Saffold (Morningside), Jayson Sanderson (Bishop Montgomery), Shawn Tyler (Bellflower), Eric Vallely (Newport Harbor), Jim Williamson (South Torrance), Robert Wurtz (Azusa).

Best draw: In a 16-team bracket, there are no good draws, just good teams.

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Worst draw: Estancia. The Eagles won the Pacific Coast League but face Bellflower in the first round. Bellflower finished second in the Suburban League to Artesia, the top-seeded team in II-A. If the Eagles survive that one, they probably will play Morningside.

Notes: To win the title, you have to beat Morningside. It’s that simple. It’s just not that easy. The Monarchs are loaded and have three players who have signed Division I scholarships. Boseman is averaging 18.2 points and 6.6 rebounds and is the most talented athlete in the division. He was a standout football player as well and could play either sport in college. He has signed to play basketball at USC. Ellison has signed with Washington State and Saffold with Oklahoma. How good are they? None of the three is the team’s leading scorer. Curry is, at 18.6. . . . Pomona may not win the title, but it should be fun to watch. The Red Devils have scored 80 or more points nine times. They have had victories of 137-101 over La Puente Bassett and 117-61 over Baldwin Park Sierra Vista.


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