The game plan this season for the San Fernando basketball team is a simple one: Get the ball to Tory Stephens.
Wherever the 6-2 senior guard is on the court, find him and hit him with a pass. You do the dishing, he'll do the swishing.
"Tory is a good shooter--period," Coach Dick Crowell said. "We tell him that we want him taking all the shots he can while he's open. He's got the green light."
And the hot hand. Through seven games, Stephens is averaging a team-leading 25.7 points a game--mostly on long-range jump shots. Largely because of Stephens' numbers, San Fernando recorded consecutive wins over Quartz Hill and Crescenta Valley in the Hart tournament last weekend.
Last season, San Fernando's scoring load was carried by seniors Shelton Boykin and Sean DeClouet. But with the graduation of both, Stephens recognized the need to start loading his long-range cannon.
"I felt like I had to take over," said Stephens, who averaged 13 points a game last season. "I decided to shoot more and be a leader."
Said Crowell: "He's been a good shooter all along. This year, we're going to rely heavily on him and Joe Mauldin."
Against Quartz Hill on Saturday, Stephens came through with a career-high 30 points, including a two-foot jumper with 11 seconds left to propel San Fernando to a dramatic, 75-74, win.
"We were down by one and I wanted the ball," Stephens said. "Joe started dribbling down the court and I was waving my hand saying 'Give me the ball.' "
Two days later, Stephens scored 25 points as the Tigers topped Crescenta Valley, 79-68, in the quarterfinal round.
With Stephens, 6-7 sophomore center Lance Whitaker and Stephens' backcourt buddy Mauldin, San Fernando is a favorite to win the Northwest Valley League.
"We all know our roles," Stephens said. "Lance's role is to get the rebounds. Joe's is to pass the ball and shoot. My role is to shoot and get the ball inside."
In San Fernando's opener against Van Nuys, Stephens concentrated too hard on working the ball inside and, consequently, attempted only 11 shots. Stephens finished with 13 points in a 63-55 loss.
"I told him to get it inside," Crowell said. "But he misunderstood me. I didn't want him to stop shooting."
Said Stephens: "I felt like I let the team down by not shooting enough. He told me in order for us to win, I have to shoot 20 or more times. But if a man is open, I'll pass."
Stephens, however, expects to be on the receiving end of most passes.
"He's the one we feel we need to get the ball to," Mauldin said. "He's improved. Last year, it seemed like he didn't want to shoot as much, but this year, it just feels like he's taking control."
VALLEY TOP 10
Selected by sportswriters of The Times
Last Rk Wk Team League Record 1 1 Simi Valley Marmonte 9-2 2 2 Cleveland Valley 7-2 3 4 Kennedy Valley 8-0 4 3 Taft Valley 8-2 5 5 North Hollywood East Valley 7-3 6 7 Crespi Del Rey 7-5 7 10 Grant East Valley 7-2 8 NR San Fernando Mid-Valley 4-4 9 9 Royal Marmonte 7-3 10 NR Burbank Foothill 7-4
Through Tuesday's games.