In Westside girls prep basketball, some of the highly rated teams have not been playing as strongly as expected in pre-league competition. And some have.
University High, a 3-A team that was considered the equal of many 4-A clubs, was just 6-4 in the early going, and three of its losses were to Venice, also a 3-A team. Venice is in University's league, the City West, but some thought the Gondoliers, who got off to a 9-1 start, were not in the same class as the Warriors.
Crossroads, which usually walks away with the Delphic League championship and finished last season with a 21-2 overall record, has had trouble picking them up and laying them down this season. The Roadrunners were 3-5 as the week began.
Fairfax, ranked eighth in the City by The Times in preseason, lost its first four games--to giant-killer Venice and Reseda, Westchester and always-powerful Buena--in the first round of the Simi Valley tournament. The Lions began turning things around in the Simi tournament, winning three straight, including the consolation title game over Canoga Park.
Strong Westside teams that have been living up to their reputations include Westchester, Culver City, Notre Dame and St. Bernard.
Westchester, top-ranked in the City in The Times preseason poll, got off to a 4-0 start in pre-league competition before stumbling in the Morningside tournament. The Comets were bumped from the tournament by two straight losses, but they lost to Morningside and Muir, both ranked in The Times top 10 in the CIF-Southern Section.
Culver City lost to Compton and Louisville, two Southern Section powers, but bounced back to win the Beverly Hills tournament and was 9-5 as the week started.
Notre Dame was 7-2 at the beginning of the week, including a convincing win over archrival Marymount, which was undefeated last year in the 1-A Sunshine League and dealt second-place Notre Dame two one-point losses in league play.
After winning the Marlborough tournament, St. Bernard won two more games, raising its record to 8-3, and the team was entertaining thoughts of dethroning five-time defending champion St. Mary's Academy in the 2-A Camino Real League.
A capsule look at some representative Westside teams and league races:
First-year Coach Beverly Pendleton didn't have two starters for much of the time in the Morningside tourney. Tammie Sadler, a 5-6 forward, had a sprained ankle and missed both games, and Tammy Story, a 5-8 off guard, injured a knee and didn't suit up for Muir.
But Pendleton expects both to be ready for the start of competition in January in the City's toughest league, the Mid-City. Other top-10 teams in the league are Washington, Crenshaw, Dorsey and Fremont.
Rounding out a strong front court for the Comets are 6-0 center Trisha Stafford, one of the City's best, and 5-7 forward Rulinda Reed, one of the City's best freshmen. Melanie Taylor is starting again at point guard.
Pendleton said that "everybody's tough" in the league, "but I think we have a good chance. We all have a good chance."
The Gondoliers defeated University twice in the South Gate tournament, including the championship game, and once in City West League play. Did that surprise Venice Coach Jean Edwards? No, she said, adding: "They're a very good team, but this team has a lot of heart and a lot of desire."
And quite a bit of senior talent, including 5-7 forward-center Latisha Burnett, 5-8 center Racquel Davis, 5-6 forward Roshea Maderer, 5-4 guard Jenice (Necie) Cooley, 5-0 guard Carol Ishioka, 5-7 forward-center Sharon Jones and 5-7 forward-guard Latanya Franklin. Burnett has been averaging about 13 points and 16 rebounds a game, Coolie has been blocking about three shots a game, often against much taller players, and also has been averaging five steals a game, and Ishioka has about four steals a game.
Patricia Peisner, Warriors coach, said her star junior center, 6-2 Kesha Martin, injured an ankle in the South Gate tournament and played with the injury but did not play much in the league loss to University.
But Peisner didn't use her star's injury as an excuse for the losses to the Gondoliers and said she was surprised that Venice was "so tough." She said Venice has some very good players and that Cooley "is exceptional," that all the 5-4 guard lacks is "maybe another foot (in height)."
She said Martin wasn't up to par in about five games but that she has been averaging more than 20 points and more than 20 rebounds a game, though her shooting percentage has been down. And she's still been "blocking a lot of shots," Peisner added.
Others who have been doing well for University are forward Dina Miller, averaging about 11 points and 12 rebounds a game, and guard Patricia Harada, averaging about 10 points.