Kennedy High Coach Craig Raub is the patriarch of a run-and-gun dynasty in City Section girls basketball.
Raub's teams have won 70 straight Valley 4-A League games the past seven years. At the end of this season, that streak could reach 80.
Kennedy returns four of the five starters and five other members from last season's team that went 21-4 before losing to Locke in the City final. It was the fourth time in five seasons that Kennedy had appeared in the championship game.
"We get good, talented kids who believe in what we're doing and believe in each other," Raub said. "When you have players like that, things take care of themselves."
Leading the Kennedy fast break is All-City guard Stacy Parson, who averaged 21.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists last season and was the league's most valuable player.
Parson, a 5-8 senior, is as good in the classroom as she is on the court. She has a 3.65 grade-point average, and Raub said she has already visited Stanford, Washington, Northwestern and Colorado.
"She's intelligent and mature and that carries over to her game," Raub said. "She rarely makes a mistake that's going to hurt the team.
"But she's at her best on the transition--when she's on the go. She drives opponents crazy. On another team, she might average 40 points."
Parson shares the bulk of the scoring for the Golden Cougars with All-City forward Diane Decree, who averaged 20.1 points and 17 rebounds last season.
Decree, a 6--0 junior, is multi-talented. She was the only high school player selected to help represent the West in the Team Handball competition during last summer's National Sports Festival in Colorado.
"By the time she graduates, Diane may be the most dominant big person to have played girls basketball in the Valley," Raub said. "She controls the inside, but she's actually a perimeter player. She outruns the guards on the break."
Athletics run in the Decree family. Sisters Toya and Fonda both played for Raub at Kennedy. Toya starts for United States International University and Fonda plays for Oregon State.
Also returning are all-league center Debbie Jones and all-league point guard Wyndee Bailey. Nina Grooms, the first player off the bench last season, is a starting forward.
Nichole Meyers, a 5--9 forward, is a transfer from North Carolina. Raub said that sophomore guard Tisa Rush is as good as Parson was at the same stage.
"No question. We have the depth this year," Raub said. "We can't hide."
That leaves the other Valley 4-A teams scrambling for the remaining playoff spots.
El Camino Real finished second last season and is a good bet to repeat if All-City center Michelle Kirby is at full strength.
Kirby, 6-2, averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds last season before being injured in an automobile accident.
"She's come back pretty well and is probably playing at 85-90 percent," El Camino Real Coach Neils Ludlow said. "We hope she'll be at full strength in a few weeks."
Joining Kirby on the front line is all-league forward Voviette Morgan, who averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds last season.
Van Nuys won the Valley 3-A League last season, but all it got the Wolves was a reshuffling into the Valley 4-A League. Coach Tony Magnante isn't overly optimistic about the step up in class.
"We've never beaten any of the teams that play in this league," Magnante said.
The key player that figures to help end that streak is transfer Janine Washington, who averaged 16 points and was named all-league last season at Birmingham.
The Wolves also will rely on returning all-league center Shawn Price, who averaged 14 points last season. All-league forward Brigitt Montes will have arthroscopic knee surgery Monday and will miss the early part of the season.
Chatsworth, with all-league guard Alice Fratus, could be competitive if the team gets immediate help from guard Felice Dorsey, last season's junior varsity MVP.
Cleveland will be led by senior forward Diane Nicholls.
Granada Hills should also have a competitive team under Coach Carolyn Gunney.
North Hollywood won the Valley 3-A League last season and figures to stay on top of what is now named the West Valley League--if all of the players can stay eligible. The Huskies were undefeated last season until semester grades came out and claimed half the team.
All-City forward Sonja Robertson has graduated, but LaTrelle Whitmore, who was averaging 17 points before she was declared ineligible, is back for her senior year.
Reseda may challenge North Hollywood if Coach Andrea Francola can get some offense from seniors Nicky Adams and Tanya Ware and junior Dana Jones.
Birmingham suffered a blow when Janine Washington transferred to Van Nuys so the Braves must now rely on forward Shagarro Lattin, who averaged 14 points last season. Cassandra Hudson, Tenita Bennet and Gloria Cannon are also returning players who should help the team.
Taft only managed one win last season as a 4--A team. Things should improve now that the Toreadors are 3--A.