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NOTEBOOK : Tournament Jinx Hovers Over Head of Ventura Coach

December 28, 1989|SEAN WATERS

Dan Larson already holds the distinction of being the only most valuable player not to play on the winning team in the Ventura basketball tournament.

Now he would like to avoid becoming a tournament host who has never won his own tournament.

After an 11-year absence, Larson, the coach at Ventura High, returns to a tournament that twice has broken his heart in the past.

The Ventura tournament began Wednesday and continues today with consolation semifinals at 3:30 and 5 p.m. Championship semifinals are at 6:30 and 8 p.m.

The finals will be held at 8 p.m. on Friday.

While Ventura might be a long shot to reach the final this season, the school made regular appearances in the championship game when Larson was its star player.

In 1976, for instance, Channel Islands beat Ventura in overtime. And a year later, a Buena player made a last-second shot from half-court to lift the cross-town rival over the Cougars.

"Mike Johnson," Larson remembers. "I'll never forget.

"I look at that court every day and I wish I was out there playing again. I think about it often, especially since we're losing. But now as a coach, I play with my mind and not my body."

Slow start: Ventura is off to a 2-6 start and has lost two key players to injuries.

John Seiler has been slow recovering from a pulled hamstring in his right leg and center Mike Ryken twisted his right ankle and will be out another two weeks.

"Defensively, we're not playing well," Larson said. "We're had injuries and at times we don't shoot the ball well. That's going to lend itself to some losses."

Walking in pain: St. Bonaventure High Coach Marc Groff knows the walk of an injured basketball player.

They make turns like an 18-wheeler in a business district and they're slower than third-class mail.

When senior guard Kevin Zoll walked into practice last week, Groff knew it was going to be a short stop.

Zoll, who averages 12 points and four assists a game, had injured his left knee in the second half of a nonleague game against Flintridge Prep on Dec. 15. The injury was originally diagnosed as a strained ligament.

"I could tell by the way he was walking, the knee was still giving him trouble," Groff said. "It wasn't healing right. It was too stiff and too sore to be a simple strain."

Zoll, a three-year starter who is also the baseball team's best pitcher, missed nearly three weeks of practice and a game against Santa Paula. Still, however, he walked like he needed a cane.

Doctors confirmed Groff's suspicion Tuesday.

Zoll has torn cartilage in his left knee and will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Friday. He'll be out four to six weeks after the operation.

Pointless problem: Poor Oxnard. It seems as if Coach Danny Garcia is scrambling to replace starters every year. This season, Garcia's projected backcourt of juniors Yusef Sharp and Ruben Bryant have played one game together.

Sharp, a 5-foot-10 point guard, has missed the past two games with back spasms. Bryant, who plays both guard positions, strained ligaments in his right knee and hasn't played since the first game.

Most coaches would be scared to play without a natural point guard. But with swingman Antonio Williams in the lineup, Garcia discovered there's no point in worrying.

Williams, a junior, has averaged 20.3 points and four assists a game while moving from swingman to point guard.

"I don't think I've ever had a player average 20 points a game," said Garcia, whose team is 4-4 and gave powerful Santa Clara a tough time before falling. "The amazing part is that he's playing out of position."

Shooting for perfection: Buena High's girls' basketball team completed its nonleague schedule with an 8-0 record and two tournament titles. But despite having gone a week without a game, the Bulldogs have been busy practicing rather than celebrating their success.

"Players become too easily satisfied with success," Coach Joe Vaughan said. "It's not good enough to win. You have to play well, too. I want our team to play at the same level with the best teams in the state.

Saturday, the Bulldogs humbled upstart Westlake, 59-45, in the final of the Simi Valley tournament. But Vaughan was unhappy with the team's performance.

"We didn't play well against Westlake," Vaughan said. "We weren't shooting well. I don't if we were tired or what. We need this week to practice and refine our game."

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