Mounties Get Their Chance : Left Out Last Season, Montclair Prep in Final


After Montclair Prep defeated Campbell Hall for its 14th victory two months ago, boys’ basketball Coach Howard Abrams let his captain, Reed Berglund, in on a secret.

Abrams showed Berglund a letter from the Southern Section guaranteeing the Mounties a berth in the Southern Section Division V-AA playoffs once they reached 18 victories.

“It was a relief to me but I didn’t want to tell anyone,” Berglund said. “Not after what happened last year. I wanted to make sure nothing went wrong.”


In 1994, Montclair Prep finished the regular season with a 15-6 record. The team practiced for three days following its last game, expecting a berth in the IV-A playoffs.

But when the pairings were announced, the Mounties were left out. According to the Southern Section, 20 teams qualified for the 16-team bracket by finishing in the top half of their leagues.

Montclair Prep was a free-lance team that was not guaranteed a spot and there wasn’t even room for the Mounties to play a wild-card game.

“That’s what makes this year so important,” senior center Carlos Roubicek said. “Its like we’ve been playing for two years for this playoff stretch.”

Montclair Prep took advantage of its 1995 guarantee. Although the Mounties did not win the V-AA title, they reached the championship game, ensuring a berth in the Division V State playoffs.

Last week, Montclair Prep won three games in the Southern California regional, including a last-second, 59-58 victory over San Diego Horizon Christian in the final.


The Mounties (27-5) advanced to the State final for the first time in school history. They play University High of San Francisco, the Northern California Division V champion, today at 4:15 p.m. at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.

Montclair Prep’s dream season began last summer with the residue of 1994 fresh in players’ minds. Berglund, junior forward Anwawn Jones and Roubicek, one of the top shot-blockers in the area, would play pickup games from Burbank to Westwood, vowing that this season wouldn’t end prematurely.

“I felt bad for the seniors who missed out on a chance like this,” Jones said. “Obviously we felt all along we deserved to be in the playoffs.”

Abrams had a good idea of his team’s potential heading into the season, with the top three scorers from 1994--Berglund, Jones and junior point guard Akil Anderson--all returning.

They were joined by Roubicek and guard Brandon Michaels, who was called up to the varsity for the playoffs that never came.

Those hopes were buoyed when most of the Mounties played a summer-league game against a team of mostly of Harvard-Westlake players, including sophomores Jason (6-10) and Jarron (6-9) Collins.


When Montclair Prep lost on a last-second shot, Berglund knew this season could be special.

But the Mounties would have to wait for their team to jell.

Three starters, Anderson, Jones and junior Scott Stark, played on the Mounties’ Division X football championship team. They didn’t join the team until mid-December and Anderson didn’t play until the La Salle tournament on Dec. 26. But they arrived just in time for the Mounties to win 12 consecutive games.

The streak included victories over Franklin, City Section 3-A champion, Village Christian, Alpha League champion, Oak Park, Tri-Valley League champion and Crespi, the top-ranked team in Division IV-AA at the time.

The Mounties benefited from the lucky breaks that can make the difference between good seasons and great ones.

Montclair Prep played Village Christian when the Crusaders’ second-best player, Chad Hanson, was sidelined with an ankle injury.

The victory over Oak Park came with the Eagles missing starting guard Brandon Creason, who had a broken arm.


Pasadena Poly, with point guard David Newhall, defeated Montclair Prep in the V-AA title game, 59-53. When the teams met six days later without Newhall, out with an ankle injury, Montclair Prep romped, 63-30.

The Mounties also prevailed in several close games, including a V-AA semifinal against Brentwood. Montclair Prep came from behind in the fourth quarter to escape with a 73-71 victory after the Mounties’ tallest starters, Jones and Roubicek, fouled out.

“The Brentwood game was the key to our whole season,” Berglund said. “That could have been the end of our season and the State tournament doesn’t even enter our minds.”

Against Horizon Christian, the Mounties lost a 12-point lead but not their composure. Trailing by a point with seconds remaining, Montclair Prep couldn’t get the ball inside to Jones, so junior guard Scott Stark sank a 15-footer to send the Mounties to Oakland.

Last year’s seniors haven’t been forgotten. After Montclair Prep was left out, Jack Pollon and a teammate went to the section office in Cerritos to plead their case, to no avail.

Pollon, now a student at Cal State Northridge, returned to the Mounties as a special assistant in October and will accompany the team to Oakland.


“This almost makes up for it,” he said.