This season, an unlikely fifth-place finisher has made it to the City semifinals, thanks to a player in his fourth game on the varsity and another who had been anything but a hero at the free-throw line.
But don't tell Fremont High School that it doesn't belong in the 4-A semifinals tonight at the Sports Arena against top-seeded Crenshaw at 9:15. The Pathfinders may have gone 12-9 in the regular season, including 3-7 in the tough Central League, but one of the losses was by three points to Westchester, which meets Manual Arts at 7:30 in the other semifinal, another was by eight to Crenshaw and two others were by two and four to Dorsey.
In the playoffs, Fremont first scored a 69-64 upset over Cleveland of Reseda, which was looking for its third straight trip to the title game. Forward Tyrone Phillips, promoted from the junior varsity to replace an injured player, led the way with 26 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Fremont made up a 51-40 deficit in the final eight minutes to win.
Next came a 54-53 win over Taft of Woodland Hills in the quarterfinals Wednesday. George McLin capped a 14-8 fourth-quarter rally with a free throw with three seconds to play to give the Pathfinders the win. The game also marked the first time in Sam Sullivan's 11 years as coach that a rooter bus accompanied the team to a game. Corey Hoover, the husband of a teacher, paid for the transportation.
The heroes were as unlikely as Fremont getting here.
"I would have been comfortable with anybody at the line except McLin," Sullivan said Thursday. "But that just shows how things have been going for us. Everyone is coming through at the right time and we're winning the close games we used to lose."
For the Pathfinders to win tonight, it would take a major upset. Crenshaw has one of the best teams in the country, with three major-college prospects, depth and the usual Bermuda Triangle-like defense. About the only thing Fremont has going for it is history.
The last time the school was so enthused about its basketball team was in 1975, when a team led by Johnny Washington, Myron Ryan and Dwayne Allen upset previously unbeaten Dorsey in the semifinals. From there, the Pathfinders beat Crenshaw, located five miles away, for the title.
Sullivan and others have noticed the coincidences and the similarities in the upsets. Undoubtedly, so has Fremont principal John Haydel, who was Dorsey's coach 13 years ago.
"I'm starting to get those feelings," said Sullivan, who graduated from Fremont in 1969 and played for East Los Angeles College and Eastern Montana. "Everyone around school has been saying that this reminds them of the team in '75 that upset Dorsey and won the whole thing. It's kind of a deja vu thing for me.
"Everything is falling right into place. Dorsey beat Fremont twice in league and annihilated us in a Christmas tournament. Now, Crenshaw has beat us twice this year, once by 21 points. But everybody on our team is going to have to play the game of their life--at the same time."
The girls' 4-A semifinals will open the quadruple-header at the Sports Arena, with L.A. Washington meeting Wilmington Banning at 4 p.m. and Fremont playing another top-seeded team, Westchester, at 5:45. Washington defeated Granada Hills Kennedy, the two-time defending champion, in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
In boys' 3-A, No. 1 University High of Los Angeles will travel to Grant of Van Nuys and Los Angeles will play host to Jordan of Los Angeles. The girls' 3-A has Palisades at top-seeded Reseda and North Hollywood at University.
The Southern Section is into the quarterfinals, with all divisions except the 5-A playing in the boys.
In Southern Section soccer, the four boys' divisions are in the quarterfinal round, with the girls' 3-A and 2-A also playing, but the 4-A resuming Tuesday with the semifinals.