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Sofro and Friends Lead Glendale Into Playoffs : Guard Part of Dynamiter Triple Threat

February 18, 1988|HEATHER HAFNER

No game could stand as a more fitting example, and few could have been more important.

With Muir having forfeited its seven Pacific League victories because of the use of an ineligible player, last Friday's game between Glendale and Hoover matched two 7-2 teams in a battle for the league title.

Hoover used a box-and-one defense against Glendale's leading scorer, guard Jeff Sofro. He was held to a season-low 10 points but Glendale won, 69-60.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to produce," Sofro said. "But we definitely have the talent to pull through if I'm taken out."

It had been surmised by many that the Dynamiters would ride the wave of Sofro's performances this season. Sofro and senior forward Dan Johnson were the team's only returning starters and Johnson had averaged only 10 points a game last season.

But by midseason, Johnson was averaging 15 points and junior forward Justin Lord emerged, becoming an integral part of Glendale's triple threat. Against Hoover, Lord scored a season-high 21 points and Johnson added 18.

"If you could combine Jeff, myself and Dan, you'd have one heck of an athlete," Lord said.

Johnson is the team's most consistent player. At 6-4, 225-pounds, he is also one of the tallest and strongest, pulling down an average of eight rebounds a game. Lord is a small forward averaging 11 points. And Sofro (6-2, 185) is averaging 22 points a game. Sofro and Lord have played hot and cold this season. Johnson has performed at a slow burn.

"That's why we need a Dan Johnson around," Glendale Coach Bob Davidson said. "Justin and Jeff are very talented offensively but they both rely on outside shooting. Dan gets most of his points inside. He's not a flashy player, but he's a very effective player. He's made a big jump every year that he's been in the program."

The balance of power this season has resulted in a Pacific League title and a Southern Section 4-A Division first-round playoff game at Glendale on Friday night against the winner of Wednesday's Charter Oak-Irvine wild-card game. Glendale (20-4, 8-2) last won the league title in 1985 when it finished 28-0 and won the 4-A title.

"I wasn't sure if we had the right chemistry at the beginning of the season," Sofro said. "But because of a game like Hoover . . . "

Said Lord: "I think we're more mature and experienced and that should definitely be a factor. I don't think anybody can argue with a 20-4 record."

Johnson certainly isn't. He has accepted his role as the unspectacular scorer, leaving the flash to Sofro and Lord.

"I'd rather be the steady player," Johnson said. "You don't get criticized about having a bad game and then a good game. Jeff's a better player and he's doing what he has to do."

Which is to score and to operate the Glendale offense. Sofro and Johnson are the team's co-captains, but the guard is Glendale's floor leader. Davidson said that he expects full-court pressure in the playoffs and Sofro's ballhandling abilities will be a key to the Dynamiter's success.

"I'm not nervous," Sofro said. "I think we're at our best when we're running against a team. This is what we've been waiting for and I think everybody is up for it."

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