BURBANK -- Winning a league championship is what every local boys’
basketball player, coach and team strives for.
While it certainly isn’t impossible for Burroughs, Burbank,
Bellarmine-Jefferson and Providence highs to win a title this winter,
all the schools play in competitive leagues that make the road to a
championship a difficult one.
However, playing in a tough league can sometimes help a program,
as Burroughs found out last season, when it advanced to the
quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section IIAA playoffs after a
fifth-place finish in league.
This season, all four teams figure to be competitive in their
respective leagues. Here’s a look at how the season is shaping up
Based on their returning players, the Indians have clearly the
best team in the area. Burroughs (14-14, 2-8 in league), has four
starters back from a team that had a great playoff run, winning three
games, two of which were on the road.
The Indians return a team that is senior-heavy, with just one
junior on the roster.
“We changed our whole attitude when we started league 0-3 last
year,” said Burroughs Coach Art Sullivan, who is entering his 14th
season. “We became a different team. We improved our team
Senior shooting guard Joey Paysinger (6 feet 1) is the Indians’
go-to player, and will be counted on to take all of Burroughs’ big
shots in the clutch. Last season, along with averaging 16.6 points
and three rebounds a game, Paysinger shot 34% from behind the
three-point line, converting 86 shots.
Kris Jones (6-2), who started at center last season and was
outstanding in the playoffs on the boards, should be even more
dominating now that he is Burroughs’ power forward.
Levon Maronyan (6-5), who missed all of last season with a broken
arm, is a reliable center, who, with Jones, should give Burroughs a
strong presence inside. Senior Ben Sullivan (6-4), the coach’s son,
is another player who could make a key contribution in the front
Burroughs is deep at the point-guard position, where the Indians
have Sal Inmaung (5-11) and Jef Radino (5-10). The two alternated
last season and were instrumental in the Indians’ playoff run.
Matt Jackson (6-3) takes over at small forward for Peter St.
Hubert, the lone starter who was lost to graduation. Jackson, who
played junior varsity last year, is a fine outside shooter.
“The only major contributor we lost was Peter, and it was a big
one. But I think we have a better team this year,” Art Sullivan said.
“For us, if we play tough defense, rebound and take care of the
ball, we’ll be tough to beat.”
Last season, St. Hubert was a consistent competitor for Burroughs,
averaging 19.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game.
The Bulldogs begin a new era under coach Jose Hernandez, who comes
in with impressive credentials, having been a varsity assistant at
Simi Valley and Goleta Dos Pueblos High, his alma mater
Last season, the Bulldogs had a year to forget, as they had to
forfeit eight games and Coach Dave Goosen was dismissed midseason for
CIF Southern Section and school violations.
Finishing 0-23 last season, Hernandez realizes Burbank can go
nowhere but up.
“I’ve told [the team], if we get one win, that’s one more than
last year,” Hernandez said.
The one positive for Hernandez and Bulldogs heading into the
season is most of the talent on the team will be coming back next
“We’re very young, and won’t start a senior,” Hernandez said.
“We’ll start five juniors, or maybe even a sophomore.”
Junior Greg Olmos (5-9) and sophomore Arno Mardyan (5-6) are
battling it out for the starting point guard spot, and juniors Eduard
Khudanyan (5-9) and Hakop Sogoyan (6-0) are going to compete for
playing time as shooting guards.
Junior Narbeh Awanessi (6-1) figures to be the Bulldogs’ small
forward and Junior Eddy Boada (6-3), who battled injuries last
season, gives Burbank a good power forward.
Junior Serob Oganesyan (6-5) will be the Bulldogs’ center.
“I’m not looking at it as a rebuilding year,” Hernandez said. “Our
seniors don’t have another year. We need to look to win this year and
hopefully we can improve on what we do this year, next year.”
Senior James Demirchift (6-1) is one player who could be a key
contributor off the bench.
The Pioneers have lost a lot of their scoring punch from last
season, when they went 18-6, 10-4 in the Liberty League.
Gone are Harout Messrelian (21 points a game), Ian
Breckenridge-Jackson (16 points a game) -- who is playing at
Occidental College -- and Armen Yousefian, the team’s three leading
Fifth-year Coach Paolo Velasco takes over the full reins of the
program from former co-Coach Robert Mena, who has returned to school
and is obtaining his master’s degree.
Senior Frank Catota (5-11) who was the starting point guard last
year, is the top returning player on the team. However, Catota may be
sidelined for a while after injuring a finger in a scrimmage earlier
Senior P.J. Sison (5-8), a four-year varsity player, is another
key returner who will take over the point-guard duties from Catota.
“Our best player in the summer was Frank. He led us in scoring and
rebounding. He moved from the point guard to a forward spot,” Velasco
said. “We’re confident P.J. can handle all the point guard
Juniors Mark Azer (6-1) and Andrew Nelson (5-11) give the Pioneers
two athletic frontcourt players, and senior Tommy Boucher (5-9), who
started last season, also figures to play a key role. Senior Justin
Nepomuceno (5-10) is another returner.
Freshman point guard Alex Jacke (5-6) could see significant
playing time and figures to be the Pioneers’ star of the future.
“We’re a better fast-break team,” Velasco said. “We get out on the
break better and we push the ball up the court well.”
A big game for the Pioneers could come Dec. 13 when they visit
Bell-Jeff for their annual cross-town rivalry contest.
“The game with Bell-Jeff is going to be interesting because we’re
guard-oriented and they are post-oriented,” Velasco said.
Eli Essa enters his ninth season as the Guards’ coach and has the
fortune of having two of his best players back from last year’s team
that finished 10-13, 2-8 in the tough Santa Fe League.
Senior Brendon Doyle (6-3), a three-sport standout and All-CIF
football player, is the team’s top returning player, as he earned
second-team all-league honors last year, averaging 14 points and
eight rebounds a game.
Doyle won’t have to focus as much on rebounding this year, because
the Guards have two players with height clogging up the middle.
Senior Brian Alfaro (6-4, 275 pounds), who averaged 10 points and
six rebounds a game last year, returns as the starting center.
Bell-Jeff has also added Alfaro’s offensive line counterpart in
football, Robert Alarcon (6-3, 280), in the front court.
In the backcourt, the Guards’ return senior J.J. Mastropietro
(5-10). Mastropietro will be given the opportunity to handle the
Senior Joe Lopez (5-7), the most valuable player of the junior
varsity team last year, gives the Guards an outside shooter and
junior Shak Ray Jr. (6-0) is a fine defender who could contribute
either in the backcourt or in the front court.
Senior Jeck Dizon (5-9) figures to help Mastropietro out in the
backcourt and senior Vazzie Meksian (6-2) is an athletic wing player
who will give Bell-Jeff some flexibility.
“The ‘X’ factor is going to be our guard play,” Essa said. “If we
can get the ball to the big guys [we’ll be fine]. They have football
bodies, but basketball skills. They’re all good scorers and
understand their limitations.”
With the help of Doyle, Alfaro and Alarcon, the Bell-Jeff football
team compiled a 7-3 record this past season, but didn’t qualify for
the Division XII playoffs after finishing fourth in the Santa Fe