When an opponent drives the lane against Granada Hills, he is entering a Gray area--the domain of 6-8, 230-pound center Gary Gray.
The consequences of such a move are as clear as black and white. An opponent will emerge black and blue or have his shot rejected in mid-flight.
A junior, Gray is gaining a reputation as a deft shot blocker who is physical on defensive and dangerous as a scorer. He was named most valuable player of last week's Birmingham tournament after leading the Highlanders to the championship.
In the tournament final against Poly, Gray scored 20 points and made key plays in the fourth quarter. After hitting two free throws to give Granada Hills (6-2) a 50-48 lead with 2:34 left in the game, Gray blocked a shot by Poly's Dean Ehrlich, scooped up the loose ball and unleashed a 50-foot pass to forward Jeff Inzar, who scored on a 15-foot jumper to extend the Highlander lead to four. Granada Hills won, 61-54.
"He did it all for us the entire game," Granada Hills Coach Bob Johnson said. "He's not the guy you want to foul down the stretch, because he can make free throws in clutch situations."
In a semifinal game against Van Nuys, Gray was ejected along with the Wolves' Damon Fredieu with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter after a brief fight. Gray had tossed the ball against Fredieu's leg after being trapped against the sideline, giving Granada Hills possession out of bounds. Fredieu, apparently upset by Gray's strategy, threw the ball back at Gray. A couple of punches were thrown.
"Gary showed some responsibility and maturity after being thrown out," Johnson said. "Rather than getting upset and storming off the floor, he stuck around and gave the team a morale boost."
Granada Hills eventually won, 61-59, in double overtime. Gray scored 17 points before being ejected.
On Thursday night, Gray scored 19 points and had 16 rebounds as Granada Hills lost, 58-51, to El Camino Real.
Hart Stoppers: Don't blame Hart Coach Doug Michelson if he doesn't invite Simi Valley back to the Hart tournament, which concluded last week.
Simi Valley won the championship behind sophomore center Don MacLean, who scored 90 points in four games and was named most valuable player.
Michelson has been bitten before by a high-scoring sophomore.
The last time a sophomore led a team to the title of the Hart tournament, it began a three-year reign.
In 1981, sophomore Joe Hillman led Hoover to the title and was named tournament MVP. Hillman returned the next two years and was MVP each time. Hoover beat Hart in the 1981 final, 51-50, and in the 1982 final, 71-70. In 1983, Hoover didn't win the title but still beat Hart.
With MacLean scoring 27 points, Simi Valley knocked Hart out of the winners' bracket this year, 68-51.
It's a sure bet MacLean will want to return, however, because Hillman holds the single-tournament record with 132 points. MacLean's 90 is second best.
Ken Barone figured he had accomplished about all he could when he quit as basketball coach at Newbury Park after the 1980-81 season. He had led the Panthers to two Marmonte League titles and had a career record of 111-52.
Barone spent the last four years teaching at Newbury Park and coaching at Ventura College. The Pirates struggled to a 35-85 record under Barone, and he resumed command of the Newbury Park program this season.
The Panthers really haven't been a force in the Marmonte League since Barone's departure, and have struggled to a 3-8 record this season. Nevertheless, Barone, 46, is glad to be back and is optimistic about the future of his program.
"In a way, it's like I never left," Barone said, "because I taught at Newbury Park while coaching at Ventura. The kids at the high school level are more receptive to coaching than junior college kids, and I get more personal satisfaction from an instruction standpoint."
Barone had hoped to step in and immediately turn the Newbury Park program around. It hasn't been that easy.
"It might take longer than I thought at first," he said. "We've got strong underclassmen and there is a lot of commitment, though, so I expect us to win our share of games."
Add Barone: His fondest memory from his first stint at Newbury Park is of the 1980-81 team that made it to the Southern Section semifinals and featured All-Southern Section players John Martens and Rick Maloney.
In fact, the memory may be as clear as his thoughts about this year's team. At a recent game at the Thousand Oaks tournament, Barone was about to laud the play of one of his guards.
"Our guards really played well," he said. "Especially, ah, ah, what's his name? Oh, heck, I'm still thinking about Martens and Maloney."
And those two played center and forward.
Add tournaments: When playing host to a basketball tournament, a coach has more to do than prepare his team.
An enduring memory of the Thousand Oaks tournament is of Thousand Oaks Coach Ed Chevalier, handsomely attired in a navy-blue suit and red tie, sweeping the gym floor during halftime of the game that preceded the final.