Morningside forward Kevin Lilley is nicknamed "Smoke," says co-coach Ron Randle, "because he's always blowing hot air."
Lilley not only talks a good game of basketball, he delivers.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior might be the South Bay's best sixth man. He consistently gives the Monarchs a spark off the bench, ranking among team leaders in scoring and rebounding.
"Every time he's entered a game he's had a positive effect," Randle said. "How he goes, we go."
Although not a starter, Lilley has been named to two all-tournament teams. He averaged 25 points in three games last week to help Morningside (8-6) take third place in the Palisades Tournament. He was the only Monarch selected all-tourney.
Lilley again was Morningside's leading scorer with 14 points Tuesday night in a 67-64 loss to Serra.
Randle compares Lilley, a muscular player who was a lineman on the football team, to UC Irvine standout Wayne Engelstad, another burly forward.
"He has big hands and a soft shot," Randle said. "He's a terror on the boards."
Lilley will play a major role in Morningside's bid for a fifth consecutive league title. The Monarchs open Pioneer League play Friday night at Leuzinger (7-4), one of the area's most improved teams. The Olympians were 1-19 a year ago.
"I like the way we're playing," Randle said. "The intensity level is high, team morale is high and the expectations are high."
St. Bernard's basketball team got a close look at some of the nation's top talent last week at the Kingdom of the Sun Tournament in Ocala, Fla.
"It was good for us," said Coach Jim McClune, whose team took fifth place. "The kids got a chance to go against pretty good players."
It was the first time this season that 6-10 center Ed Stokes was able to start for the Vikings. The junior had been sidelined by tendinitis of the hip.
Stokes' indoctrination to big-time prep basketball came against Nichols High of Buffalo, N. Y., and its 6-10 center, Christian Laettner. The Duke recruit had 29 points, but St. Bernard won the fifth-place semifinal game, 83-67. Laettner fell six points short of the tournament scoring record.
"He has to be one of the top four or five big men in the country," McClune said. "Stokes played pretty well against him. His stamina is improving.
"We've been competitive without him, but with him we can be a really good team."
Stokes continued his improvement Tuesday night by scoring a season-high 17 points to lead the Vikings over Pius X, 62-54.
St. Bernard (11-3) figures to need all of its stars in the Angelus League. The Vikings open league play Friday night at Bishop Amat (14-1), which returns four starters and is a title contender.
Said Coach Gary McKnight of defending Angelus champion Mater Dei: "You've got Bishop Amat, which is playing well; St. Paul, Servite, St. Bernard and us. One of them is not going to make the playoffs, and I'd be hard pressed to say which one is not going to go. Injuries will kill you.
"It's like the ACC or the Big East."
Mater Dei (9-3) opens Angelus play Friday night at Bishop Montgomery (6-7), perhaps theleague's weakest team.
Most of the South Bay's best prep wrestlers will compete in the El Camino College Tournament starting Friday afternoon.
The event, which concludes with finals Saturday night, features about 50 teams from California, including defending state champion Victor Valley. Perry High of Oklahoma, last year's tournament champion, will not defend its title.
Torrance, winner of last week's Hacienda Heights Wilson Tournament, tops South Bay entries. The Tartars are led by junior Greg White (108 pounds), named the outstanding wrestler in the lower weights at the Wilson tournament, and two seniors--defending Bay League champs Jeff Clements (122) and James Lopez (147).
West Torrance boasts junior Mike Ramirez (157), who is 32-0 and has placed first in five tournaments. He was named the outstanding wrestler in the upper weights at the Wilson tournament. Ramirez has gone the distance in only two of his 32 matches.
Defending CIF 1-A champion Toby Harris (122) will lead Redondo, while North Torrance has standouts in junior Mike Matsumoto (101) and sophomore Jason Roper (108). Matsumoto was selected the outstanding wrestler at the Mira Costa Tournament two weeks ago. Roper, a transfer from Quartz Hill, placed second in the CIF 2-A meet as a freshman.
Saturday's finals are expected to start at 4 p.m.
Westchester center Zan Mason earned the most valuable player award in last week's Las Vegas Holiday Prep Basketball Classic, but Coach Ed Azzam says point guard Sam Crawford was more deserving.
"Sam Crawford should have been MVP," he said. "Right now Sam is the best player on the team. He's doing everything I want him to do in the framework of our offense. He's getting the ball to the right person."
Mason, a 6-7 junior, won the award after a 33-point, 9-rebound performance in a 74-70 victory over Ballard High of Louisville in the finals.