The all-star boys and girls teams, each consisting of 10 members, their coaches and parents will be guests of the Times at 9 a.m. Sunday, May 1, at the annual Times High School Basketball Awards Brunch where all-star teams from 12 circulation areas will be honored at the Anaheim Hilton. The featured Speaker will be Loyola Coach Paul Westhead. The players and coaches of the year from each area will be announced.
The teams were chosen on the basis of a poll of area coaches, who are asked to fill out ballots nominating their own players and opponents, plus the observations of college scouts and sportswriters. Each player will receive the traditional Times golden basketball plaque and award certificate.
It was a banner year for boys' basketball in Ventura County--and not only at Simi Valley High, which became the first upper division county team since Ventura in 1949 to win a Southern Section championship.
There were new champions: St. Bonaventure, led by All-County center Andy Wagoner, won its first Tri-Valley League basketball championship in history.
There were old champions: Santa Clara, with All-County forward Kwame Joyner and its usual balanced attack, won the Frontier League title and advanced to the playoffs for the 28th time in 30 seasons.
There were unexpected champions: Buena, picked to finish no better than third in a preseason poll of coaches, went undefeated in the 14-game Channel League season.
And, for a change, a fair share of people outside county limits took notice.
Simi Valley was ranked No. 1 in the 4-A Division for most of the season; Santa Clara stayed ranked in the 2-A despite a losing record in preseason while playing upper division teams; and St. Bonaventure was the top-ranked 1-A team at the end of the regular season.
Growing respect for county schools was also evident when All-Southern Section teams--voted on by media from Southern California--were released. A record four county players were selected to the 4-A first team, including Don MacLean of Simi Valley, who was player of the year for the second consecutive season.
"The county has been overlooked for a long time," Coach Glen Hannah of Buena said, "but it was better this year. Our league was well-represented on All-CIF teams. It had to be. This was an exceptionally strong year."
The fact that strength was recognized was a welcomed change. "We've felt all along that Ventura County was competitive," Coach Bob Hawking of Simi Valley said. "The fact that we don't get the recognition goes with the territory."
Hawking compared high school basketball in Ventura County to college basketball on the West Coast in terms of gaining respect. "The East media controls who gets the recognition in the NCAA Division I and Orange County kind of controls who gets the media attention and recognition in Southern Section basketball.
Coach Lou Cvijanovich of Santa Clara agreed. "We're way out in the tules so to speak," he said. "Orange County has been the hotbed. That's where the coverage is. People say we're crazy to go all the way to Orange County for tournaments, but that's how your kids get exposure. I've always felt you have to travel to show your wares."
Simi Valley, which participated in a tournament in Hawaii last season, flew to Myrtle Beach, S. C., in December to compete in one of the nation's most prestigious tournaments.
Closer to home, Ventura upset the host school to win the Beverly Hills tournament and Santa Clara managed to stay near .500 in nonleague games despite a schedule of almost all upper-division schools.
Ventura, led by All-County forward Chris Hantgin, ran off to 15 consecutive wins to start the season. When the Cougars finally lost, it was to Buena, which started a tear of its own. The Bulldogs, led by center Shawn Kirkeby and point-guard Mike Sandoval, both All-County selections, stormed through the Channel League season and advanced all the way to the Southern Section quarterfinals before bowing out one game short of a matchup with Simi Valley.
The Bulldogs' performance surprised almost everyone, including their coach. "There was no one way to stop us, that was the key," Hannah said. "Everyone contributed."
And in several different ways. Buena got strong inside play on offense and defense from Kirkeby, strong rebounding from Adan Valencia, clutch scoring from Craig Rasmussen, steady playmaking from Sandoval and important three-point shooting from sophomore Jeff Oliver, an honorable mention All-County selection.
Sandoval and Oliver were perhaps the top outside-shooting combination in the county. All-County guards Butch Hawking of Simi Valley and Kevin Martin of Thousand Oaks were the top bombers in the Marmonte League.
The Pioneers--who placed forward Shawn DeLaittre on the All-County team in addition to Hawking and MacLean--fulfilled the potential that had been predicted since the three players were sophomores. Simi Valley defeated Capistrano Valley, 70-64, in the 4-A title game.