Basketball coach Ralph Turner of Canoga Park High knew the Hunters made a major statement with a 77-72 victory over Chatsworth on Wednesday, but still he tried to downplay his team's talent.
But Turner might have to admit the Hunters, one of the best-kept secrets in the Valley Pac-8 Conference last season, seem ready for more attention after defeating the Chancellors, the third-ranked team in the area by The Times.
"We just wanted to let people know we were going to stick around a while this year," Turner said. "We really do have some things to work on."
Junior forward Anthony Ellison scored 26 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and helped slow down Chancellor guard Jerome Joseph.
Joseph, who scored 33 points in the Chancellors' opener, was held to 15 points.
Canoga Park (4-1) broke open a close game with a 13-1 run in the third quarter, including six points by Aaron Lasley, who scored all of his points (13) in the second half.
Chatsworth (1-1) closed the gap in the fourth quarter behind center Eddie Miller (19 points and 17 rebounds), closing to within three points three times. But Canoga Park pulled away by making 14 of its final 16 free-throw attempts.
"That wouldn't have happened last year," Turner said.
Canoga Park was 12-11 last season, won the Mid-Valley League title and advanced to the City Section 3-A Division quarterfinals without Ellison, who was academically ineligible.
At Chatsworth, the Chancellors are still reeling from the unexpected loss of three impact players.
Point guard Isiah Thomas and transfer forward Exavian Browder are academically ineligible.
T.J. McCoy, a starting forward last season, was declared ineligible for allegedly falsifying paperwork on a physical-examination report.
The losses leave Coach Fluke Fluker looking for role players to complement Joseph and Miller.
Chatsworth found one solution in sophomore Keith Stevens, who finished with 15 points, including two three-point baskets.
"We knew we were going to need Keith for his shooting and three-point ability," Fluker said. "We'll need him to do more now."