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Chevalier Makes the Right Moves in Rookie Season

Andre Chevalier’s first season as basketball coach at Cleveland High, his alma mater, has gone mostly as planned.

Chevalier, 25, instituted a study hall and required players to wear a shirt and tie on game day in an effort to instill the pride he felt playing at Cleveland under Bobby Braswell, now the coach at Cal State Northridge.

“It’s been hard work, but putting together this type of program is something I’ve dreamed about for a long time,” Chevalier said.

Cleveland rebounded from a 1-2 start to win 11 of 12 entering Northwest Valley Conference play. But the Cavaliers lost games three weeks a row to teams with veteran coaches--one to Al Bennett’s Birmingham Braves and two to Yutaka Shimizu’s improving Kennedy Golden Cougars.

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Chevalier kept the Cavaliers focused, and victories in their last two games gave them a share of the conference title. Carrying the load is senior Donald Holt, who averages 20.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.5 steals.

“Donald is a blue-collar type,” Chevalier said. “We don’t have to set up too many plays for him because he creates his own opportunities.

“He is still learning, but he gets ahead by working hard.”

The same could be said for Chevalier.

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No place like home: Birmingham players blew away like leaves in the wind after last season, with four talented Braves transferring to four different schools: David Redmond (Canoga Park), Ellis Richardson (Poly), Gilbert Arenas (Grant) and Kenny Mason (Cleveland).

Birmingham (17-7), however, overcame the exodus to win the North Valley League championship and earn a high seeding in the City Section 3-A Division playoffs. The Braves open against University (5-15), the third-place team from the Coastal Conference.

“These guys really play as a team,” Bennett said. “We lost a lot of talent, but the guys who stayed play with great heart. It’s been a rewarding season.”

To compensate for the loss of talent, Bennett slowed the pace, and strong inside forces Raymond Kizzee and Emmanuel Evans flourished. Kizzee, a senior, averages 14.5 points and 9.3 rebounds, and Evans, a junior, averages 13.4 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Point guard Fahim Hassankhail plays a deliberate, mistake-free game, and is averaging 6.1 assists.

Bracing for Baron: As if Village Christian Coach Brian Gibson didn’t have enough to worry about with his busy schedule, now he has to worry about preparing his team to play top-seeded Crossroads, led by Baron Davis, in the Southern Section Division IV-A playoff opener.

Gibson, who teaches full time and is taking classes at Azusa Pacific University toward a Master’s degree in education, also coaches baseball, which started Monday. Gibson also has a wife, three children and another one due in August.

“It’s a pretty busy time of the year,” Gibson said. “But I’ve been trying to get some information on [Crossroads].”

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Village Christian finished 11-13 and third in the Alpha League. Crossroads is 23-3 and ranked eighth in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. The highly recruited Davis is regarded as one of the top prep point guards in the nation.

“Most of our guys are just looking toward the future when they will be able to say, ‘Hey, I played against that guy,’ ” Gibson said. “We’re just going to go after them like anyone else, but I told them that unless the Lord puts his hand over their basket, it’s going to be pretty tough.”

Not wild about draw: La Canada boys’ Coach Tom Hofman wonders how his Spartans, who are ranked eighth in Southern Section Division III and tied Blair and Temple City for the Rio Hondo League title, ended up in a wild-card game.

La Canada, which has won or tied for the league title for 10 consecutive seasons, plays host to St. Francis tonight in a Division III-A game, with the winner advancing to Friday’s first round. St. Francis finished third in the Mission League.

“Who knows how we ended up there,” Hofman said. “The system doesn’t work.”

The campuses of La Canada and St. Francis border each other, with the tennis courts at La Canada adjacent to the football field at St. Francis. The schools split two meetings this season and have met in the first round of the playoffs three times in the past five years, with the Spartans winning twice.

Hearing Bell: Channel Islands girls’ Coach Patrick Bell has already found a way to cope with the intense playoff atmosphere.

After calling a timeout late in the fourth quarter of a close victory over Royal last week, Bell pulled his team off the floor and into the locker room for a quick pep talk.

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“I wanted to get away from the noise.” Bell said. “Just get them away for 30 seconds, so I could tell them what I needed to.”

Mystery opponent: Channel Islands boys’ Coach Gary Abraham isn’t getting much information about Leuzinger, the Raiders’ first-round opponent in a Division I-AA game.

“We know they’re quick but that’s about it,” Abraham said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

High School Basketball Playoff Matchups

WEDNESDAY

Boys

Southern Section

Wild-card round

Games at 7:30 p.m.

Division III-A

St. Francis at La Canada

Cabrillo at Santa Paula

Division IV-A

Providence at Brethren Christian

THURSDAY

Boys

Southern Section

First round

Game at 7:30 p.m.

Division V-AA

Valley Torah at Campbell Hall

Girls

Southern Section

First round

Games at 7:30 p.m.

Division III-A

Duarte at La Canada

Estancia at Harvard-Westlake

South Pasadena at Nordhoff

Division VA

West Valley Christian at Lancaster Bethel Christian

Antelope Valley Christian at Cuyama Valley

Grace Brethren at Apple Valley Christian

FRIDAY

Boys

City Section

Games at 7:30 p.m.

First round

Division 4-A

Taft at Crenshaw

Kennedy at Canoga Park

Monroe at Westchester

Cleveland at Carson

Division 3-A

Roosevelt at Poly

University at Birmingham

Granada Hills at Eagle Rock

San Pedro at San Fernando

Huntington Park at Sylmar

Southern Section

Games at 7:30 p.m.

First round

Division I-AA

Leuzinger at Channel Islands

Santa Monica at Palmdale

Highland at Simi Valley

Hoover at Ayala

Division I-A

Warren at Hart

Royal at Rio Mesa

Buena at Antelope Valley

Division II-AA

Valencia at Compton

Ventura at Righetti

Santa Barbara at Burbank

Division II-A

Agoura at Moorpark

Burroughs at Newbury Park

Division III-AA

Calabasas at Dos Pueblos

Division III-A

Northview at Harvard-Westlake

St. Francis/La Canada winner at Morningside

Chaminade at Bishop Montgomery

Cabrillo/Santa Paula winner at Lompoc

Division IV-AA

Crespi at Oak Park

St. Paul at Paraclete

Division IV-A

Village Christian at Crossroads

Providence/Brethren Christian winner at Boys Republic

St. Monica at L.A. Baptist

High Desert at Bell-Jeff

Division V-AA

Buckley at Thacher

Holy Martyrs at Bishop Diego

Boron at Montclair Prep

Division V-A

Grace Brethren at Cornerstone Christian

Antelope Valley Christian at Rolling Hills Prep

Santa Clarita Christian at Pilgrim

Lancaster Bethel Christian at Immanuel Christian

Landmark West at Rio Hondo Prep

Girls

City Section

Games at 7:30 p.m.

First round

Division 4-A

El Camino Real at North Hollywood

Dorsey at Kennedy

Grant at Palisades

Division 3-A

Birmingham at Sherman Oaks CES

Fairfax at Poly

Granada Hills at Hamilton

SATURDAY

Boys

Southern Section

First round

Division V-AA

Milken Community at Santa Clara, 8 p.m.

Girls

Southern Section

First round

Games at 7:30 p.m., unless noted

Division I-AA

Glendale at Palmdale

Simi Valley at Long Beach Poly

Quartz Hill at Arroyo Grande

Oxnard at Channel Islands

Division I-A

Montebello at Buena

Canyon at Mark Keppel

Royal at Hart

Littlerock at Thousand Oaks

Nogales at Crescenta Valley

Division II-AA

Righetti/Santa Barbara at Ventura

Division II-A

Burroughs at Atascadero

Agoura at Moorpark

Division III-AA

San Luis Obispo at Alemany

Division IV-AA

Oak Park at Santa Ynez

La Salle at La Reina

Big Bear at Fillmore

Ramona Convent at Louisville

Gabrielino at Paraclete

Division IV-A

L.A. Baptist at Bell-Jeff

Village Christian at Calvary Chapel

Division V-AA

Mary Star at Holy Martyrs

Campbell Hall at Buckley

Windward at Flintridge Prep

Oakwood at Arrowhead Christian

Faith Baptist at Bishop Diego

Cate at Montclair Prep

Thacher at Santa Clara, 5 p.m.


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