Unranked University High School will play top-ranked Marshall, led by City scoring leader Jerry Simon, for the City 3-A boys' basketball title tonight at 7:30 at the Sports Arena.
University (17-7) has reached the final for the first time since it won the title in 1954. The Warriors made it to the championship game with a semifinal overtime victory over Jefferson, 46-44.
Marshall, the dominant force in the Northern League, beat Van Nuys, 57-55, to reach the final, a first for the Barristers (21-3).
Simon, a 6-foot 5-inch forward, will be the one to watch, or the one to stop, depending your viewpoint. His consistent scoring ability has provided a steady offensive threat for the Barristers.
In league play this year, Simon had a 37.8-point average--he scored 69 points against Belmont--to go with his 18.5 rebounds and 11 assists.
In the playoffs, Simon has averaged 24.7 points, 16.7 rebounds and 6 assists, and Luis Gonzales has contributed 18 points a game. Guard-forward Erven Jaramilla and guard David Lopez have averaged 6 and 5.6 assists, respectively.
Obviously, University has its work cut out, but Warrior Coach Jim Nakabara figures his team has a legitimate chance.
"We have a taller team, we stay inside, so hopefully we can control the boards and keep them shooting from outside," he said. "If they have an on night, that's where we'll be in trouble."
The Warriors have been successful with their inside game this year, thanks mostly to their big men--6-5 forward Derek Drain, 6-4 center Craig Pryor and 6-3 Paul Richardson.
In the playoffs, Drain has averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds in leading the Warriors, a strong team on the boards. Richardson and Pryor have averaged 9 and 6 rebounds, respectively.
Marshall Coach Sandy Greentree agrees that University could be formidable.
"They're surprisingly under control offensively and have a good inside game," he said. "They have a bigger team and try to get the ball inside a lot. We gotta screen out and we'll be OK."
Since stopping Simon is all but impossible, University's strategy will basically be to keep him outside as much as possible and to pressure him when he goes inside.
"Jerry Simon plays in and ouT and has a good outside shot," Nakabara said. "We're taller than the teams he's used to playing. If he goes low post, we'll double-team him. If he doesn't, we'll give him single coverage and hope he has an off night."
Greentree, however, doesn't figure that University will concentrate too much on taking Simon out of the game by double-teaming him, since that proved futile when Van Nuys tried it, leaving other players open. Simon had 19 points, despite being double-teamed, and Jaramilla put in the winning basket practically uncontested.
Greentree: "They saw the (Van Nuys) game and know our other players can shoot, too, so I won't count too much on that."
Whatever happens, both coaches will stick to what has worked for them so far.
"We'll do what we've done all year," Greentree said. "We'll take our time and get a good shot."
Nakabara said: "I'd like to start with our regular game plan and go from there."