BOYS' BASKETBALL 1993-94 / SMALL SCHOOLS : Family Approach Helps Brethren Christian Win

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For the Mendoza family, this winter has been long awaited.

Richard will be starting his second season as the point guard on Brethren Christian's defending Olympic League championship basketball team.

The eldest daughter, Brianna, will be making her debut on the Warrior girls' varsity basketball team.

Fourteen-month-old Lauren will get better at walking and hopefully minimize her crash landings.

And all 13 of the Mendoza's closest friends and relatives are going to Maui for the first time.

It just so happens that Richard's basketball team has a tournament there next month.

Actually, the trip has been long in the planning for the Mendoza family and the rest of the Brethren Christian faithful. After all, with a 26-game league winning streak and a 1993 Southern Section championship patches sewed to their letter jackets, the Warriors deserve a vacation.

The team has held a free-throw-athon, sold candy bars, cooked breakfast for a couple of hundred people and even parked cars at the Rose Bowl to raise the $9,000 in travel expenses.

Still $2,500 short of the amount needed, Richard Mendoza figures to be working again in the Rose Bowl parking lot Jan. 1, but at least he will have a tan.

He also will have a determined look on his face because that will be the week the Warriors begin their quest for a three-peat in the Olympic League.

On the court, Richard Mendoza will have an entirely new look: an additional 15 pounds and a lot more quickness added to his 5-foot-11 frame.

Much can be credited to an off-season training program instilled by his father, Joe, an L.A. County Parks and Recreation employee who happens to have keys to the county gymnasiums.

"A couple of times we would practice until midnight," the younger Mendoza said.

And the moonlighting has paid dividends.

"My defense and handling of the ball have gotten a lot better," he said. "One of my goals is to lift weights throughout this season."

Another goal for Mendoza is to lead Brethren Christian back to the State finals, where the Warriors finally met their match last season, running into 7-foot Darnell Robinson and his Emeryville Emery teammates, who won, 74-47.

The loss ended a 24-game winning streak that included going 12-0 in league play for the second consecutive year. They bounced back from nine points down with three minutes left against Brentwood and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Jr. in the Southern Section semifinals to win, and they wrapped up the Southern Section title with a last-second basket against Palos Verdes Chadwick.

Look for Mendoza to bump up his 10.3 scoring average this season as well as continue to distribute the ball in time and on target to his teammates.

"We are a lot stronger this season and it's our strength and athleticism that gives us the edge on the court," he said.

With a lineup that has three players from the football team, Brethren Christian will not get pushed around.

"They are all strong," Mendoza said. "Reggie (Davis), Andy (Brown), they all motivated me to get stronger, too."

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