Competition expected to be fierce when Mission League basketball play begins next week

Guard Brandon Whitney of Alemany is one of a group of outstanding players set to begin play next week in the Mission League.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

League play has lost some of its luster in the era of teams being in separate playoff divisions, but not so in Mission League basketball, where top players, top teams and packed gyms produce entertaining games and great competition.

The Mission League resumes its annual weekly drama next week, and the action should be better than ever. The opening schedule for Jan. 8 has Chaminade at Crespi, Harvard-Westlake at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and Loyola at Alemany. St. Francis has a bye. The teams are a combined 97-24.

Harvard-Westlake is 15-1 and considered the preseason favorite to win the league but all seven teams are capable of winning on a given night. And let’s talk about the player talent in the league.

Brandon Whitney of Alemany, headed to Montana, led his team to an upset of Bishop Montgomery in the championship game of the SoCal Christmas Classic last week. He’s averaging 26.4 points. The Warriors are 15-4


Freshman Mike Price of Crespi is proving to be one of the best young guards in the Southland. When the going gets tough, he steps forward to deliver. He helped the Celts win the Orange tournament last week. Crespi is 12-5 under first-year coach Andrew Moore. The Celts have another very good shooting guard in Robert Power.

St. Francis won a division of the Classic at Damien last week behind UC Irvine-bound guard Andre Henry.

Chaminade has perhaps the best guard duo in the league with juniors Kenneth Simpson and Keith Higgins.

Loyola, like last season, is once again surprising by using team chemistry and unselfishness. The Cubs are 14-3 and senior Colby Brooks has emerged as a standout.

Notre Dame is young but takes lots of threes, and if the Knights are making their threes, beware. Sophomores Ben Shtolzberg and Brandon Perez and freshman Dusty Stromer are more than capable of rising up on a given night.

But it’s still Harvard-Westlake that teams must figure out how to beat. The Wolverines have someone no one else in the league has — imposing 6-foot-10 center Mason Hooks. The Wolverines play great defense and have clutch shooters in Spencer Hubbard and Brase Dottin.

There’s also fun to look forward to in fan entertainment. The students can be loud and innovative in their cheers.

Among the big games ahead: Harvard-Westlake at Loyola, Jan. 15; Chaminade at Harvard-Westlake, Jan. 29; St. Francis at Alemany, Jan. 24; Crespi at Notre Dame, Jan. 18.

Teams are playing each other only once in league, so the games will be intense.