With teams such as CIF 3-A Division powers Pomona and Damien competing in the Baseline League, not many people considered Claremont High School a contender for the title at the start of the season. Perhaps they had better reconsider. With a victory over Damien at 7:30 p.m. Friday in La Verne, Claremont can move into the driver's seat.
Claremont goes into the game with a 9-1 record in the Baseline League and 16-5 overall and Damien is 8-2 in league play and 17-5 overall. Claremont has already defeated Damien twice this season, by 13 points in the Chino Tournament in December and by 3 points in a league game Jan. 17.
Damien has one of the premier offensive players in the San Gabriel Valley in 6-3 forward Kevin Partington, who is averaging about 22 points a game. Partington scored 23 in the last game between the teams. But Claremont can counter on offense with players such as 6-1 guard Travis Watkins, 6-8 center Dan McGwire and 6-5 forward Dave Rice. Watkins, who averages about 20 points a game, is the scoring leader for the Wolfpack.
Bonita vs. Diamond Bar
With Ganesha (19-1, 9-0) comfortably leading the Hacienda League, about the only question remaining is which teams will finish second and third. The winner of this game at 7 p.m. Friday at Bonita will go a long way toward finishing third and securing a playoff berth.
If tradition is important, Bonita will have the advantage going into the game. Both teams are 5-4 in league play but Diamond Bar is 11-7 overall and Bonita only 8-10. However, Bonita has dominated the Brahmas since Diamond Bar started playing varsity basketball four years ago. Bonita also has been playing well since it defeated Diamond Bar, 48-43, on Jan. 17.
The game will match two of the taller teams in the valley. Diamond Bar, which has been hindered by an injury to 6-7 forward Brian Hendrick, still has an outstanding center in 6-8 junior Pat McMann and a solid supporting cast that includes guards Kent Solomon (6-0) and Dean Delude (5-10) and forward Mike Oku (6-3). McMann leads the team in scoring with a 15.5 average. Bonita has good size with 6-8 John Gilmartin at center and 6-6 Rick Fluckey at forward and has an excellent playmaker in 6-0 point guard Clark Moses.
Charter Oak vs. San Dimas
San Dimas will have revenge on its mind when it faces rival Charter Oak in a crucial Montview League match-up at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Charter Oak. The Saints will not have to be reminded that Charter Oak beat them 57-56 earlier in the first round of the league season. That is the only league loss for San Dimas, which is 7-1 in the Montview League and 17-3 overall. Charter Oak is 8-0 in league play and 14-4 overall.
The big problem for San Dimas will be containing Charter Oak's outstanding 6-8 junior center, Jim Farris, who is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds a game. The Chargers also have another good front-line player in forward Khaled Shahbo and a standout at guard in Mark Smith. San Dimas, which won the league title last year, will counter with solid scoring from Jim Skinner, who averages 18.5 points and 10 rebounds, and Tim Metcalfe and guard Jon Troyano.
Blair vs. Monrovia
Monrovia will be trying to play spoiler when it hosts Blair in Rio Hondo League game at 8 p.m. Friday. While Monrovia has been struggling with a 2-4 record in league (7-10 overall) going into this week's play, Blair is tied for first with South Pasadena at 5-1 (17-3 overall).
Monrovia, which suffered a 50-40 loss to Blair on Jan. 17, has one of the top offensive players in the valley in 6-5 center Charles White, a senior who averages 21 points and 15 rebounds a game. White will be matched against Blair's 6-5 post standout Teddy Jones, who averages 18.5 points and 10 rebounds. Blair, which suffered its first league setback in a 42-41 overtime loss to South Pasadena last week, also is led by 6-4 forward Dion Smith and 6-1 guard Alcus McCullough.
San Gabriel Valley's Top Ten Prep Teams
Rank, School, League Record
1 Muir (Pacific) 19-2
2 Ganesha (Hacienda) 18-1
3 Wilson (Sierra) 19-3
4 Damien (Baseline) 17-5
5 Nogales (Sierra) 16-5
6 Claremont (Baseline) 16-5
7 Pomona (Baseline) 11-5
8 Blair (Rio Hondo) 17-3
9 Charter Oak (Montview 14-4
10 San Dimas (Montview) 17-3
OTHERS: Arcadia (13-8), Edgewood (14-6), Glendora (14-6), South Pasadena (14-6), Temple City (15-6).
Through games of Feb. 2