Boys basketball: Tars hope to overcome Warriors

Barry Faulkner

Newport Harbor High boys basketball coach Larry Hirst knows exactly

how a jilted Oscar nominee feels. For four straight seasons, Hirst and

his Sailors have given a stirring Sea View League performance, only to

see someone else win the league title.

And while the Sailors (12-5), ranked No. 9 in last week's Orange

County poll, have, once again, generated plenty of buzz this season, they

are not projected to end their string of four straight second-place

league finishes.

Woodbridge (11-5), ranked No. 3 in last week's Orange County poll,

brings a 14-game league winning streak, as well as the label of favorite,

into Wednesday night's league openers.

The Warriors, led by 6-foot-1 senior point guard Patrick Hadden and

6-10 sophomore David Burgess, should increase their Sea View win skein to

16 games, before visiting the Sailors' Jan. 18.

If the Sailors don't knock off the Warriors then, ending a three-game

losing streak to Coach John Halagan's squad, it may be another bridesmaid

campaign for the Tars.

Newport has talent, experience and height this season as it attempts

to win the school's first league title since 1990.

The Sailors tuned up last week in Anchorage, Alaska, where they won

their final two tournament games to earn third place.

The Tars open Wednesday at Aliso Niguel (4-13), which is projected to

finish last, behind third-place challengers Laguna Hills (7-9) and Irvine

(7-9).

Hirst's hopes have been bolstered by senior point guard Greg Perrine's

early return from reconstructive ACL surgery over the summer.

Perrine, second-team all-league as a junior, has played 10 games after

missing the first seven. He appears to be rounding into form, having

averaged 14.3 points in three games in Alaska, en route to all-tournament

honors.

While Perrine directs the offense, 6-6 senior Tony Melum spearheads

the attack. The returning All-CIF Southern Section Division II performer

has averaged 22.7 points and is well on his way to approaching the school

single-season scoring record of 618 points set by Justin McIntee in

1991-92.

The Sailors' title bid will also be enhanced by senior returning

starter Erik Peterson, who averages 10 points and adds intangibles that

consistently earn him praise from Hirst.

Nedim Pajevic, a 6-8 junior, averages 7.8 points as he continues to

develop.Hirst hopes consistency will soon become part of this talented

performer's game.

Jaime Diefenbach, a 6-8 sophomore, as well as junior guard Chase

Cameron, both in their second varsity season, should also contribute down

the stretch.

Woodbridge has displayed its trademark depth and balance, though

Hadden, who earned first-team All-Sea View recognition last year after

transferring from Mater Dei, could be the best player in the league. He

averages 16.6 points per game and should also entertain fans with his

passing acumen.

Burgess, the younger brother of former Woodbridge legend Chris

Burgess, now a senior at Utah, is averaging 10.9 ppg, while 6-1 senior

guard Cole Edmondson (10.1 ppg) is another consistent scorer.

The Warriors, with 6-6 junior Chris Boldig (5.6 ppg), 6-6 sophomore

John Winder (3.3) and 6-5 senior Shawn Gamaroz (3.8), are also the only

league team for which Newport will not pose matchup problems.

Woodbridge hosts the Sailors Feb. 6 in the second round, a game

Newport hopes will still have championship ramifications.

Both Laguna Hills and Irvine don't appear to have enough to challenge

either Harbor or Woodbridge, but they should battle one another for the

league's third guaranteed playoff berth.

Coach Dave Brown's Hawks boast balance with 6-3 senior guard Mark

Demick leading the offense at 14.1 ppg. Seniors Matt Donat (10.9 ppg),

Ross Carter (8.6) and Jimmy Vollenhalls (8.4) also contribute for Laguna

Hills.

Coach Steve Decker's Irvine Vaqueros have three players averaging

around eight points, including 6-11 senior Brad Kanis. Emil Kuruvilla, a

6-2 senior forward, and Nasi Heider, a 5-10 sophomore guard, are also

primary offensive threats. The Vaqs went 1-7 in league last season.

Aliso, which tied Laguna Hills for third last season, is paced by 6-3

senior guard Parham Nematollah, who averages around 11 ppg.

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