For the St. Monica High School basketball team, hailed before the season as the state's top team and one of the nation's best, the trips to Las Vegas and Chicago were memorable.
In the Las Vegas Holiday Tournament, the Mariners beat highly rated Dunbar of Washington, D.C., Simon Gratz of Philadelphia, Auburn, Ala.,) and Myrtle Beach, S.C., before losing the championship game, 80-79, in overtime to Clark of Las Vegas.
In the Windy City Tournament, St. Monica, 8-5 at the start of the week, lost to Christ the King of New York and De LaSalle of Chicago but defeated Chicago Simeon, three more powerhouses. A good showing for the Mariners. But then they had to return to California where last week St. Anthony upset them, 68-60, in a Camino Real League opener at Pius X High School in Downey.
The loss to St. Anthony may not have been as big an upset as it seemed. St. Monica Coach Leo Klemm said that St. Anthony is "one of the better teams in the league."
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 14, 1990 Home Edition Westside Part J Page 4 Column 4 Zones Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Basketball Team--A photo in Thursday's Highlights column did not identify Leo Klemm, the coach of the St. Monica High School basketball team, and Jahi Bacon, one of his players.
But Klemm vowed that next year his team will take "no national trips back-to-back." He said that going to those tournaments presented hazards other than a Clark or a De LaSalle.
The Mariners stayed only 36 hours in California between the Las Vegas and Chicago tournaments, and half of the team spent an extra day in Chicago before coming home because Midway Airport was fogged in. The other half had left on an earlier flight before fog closed the airport.
Klemm said he thinks his team was "playing a little tired" against St. Anthony. "They had only a few days to get over jet lag (and made only) 17 of 31 free throws."
"But I don't feel we lacked effort. We played hard and were there all the way in a tight game."
He said the victories over Dunbar and Gratz may have been good for St. Monica's prestige but that they didn't make it easier to win the Camino Real League championship. "Now it's tougher because everybody wants to knock us off."
St. Anthony and Coach Tom Roanhaus certainly did.
Roanhaus went so far as to go to the Las Vegas tournament so that he could videotape St. Monica's games. He had also taped the Mariners in their own tournament, where they lost the championship game, 58-57, to Fairfax, another Westside powerhouse and one of the strongest teams in Los Angeles City play.
The St. Anthony's coach said that money for the trip "came out of my own pocket a little bit" but that he also spent "my scouting budget for the whole year."
He said the money was well spent because "I knew it was important for us to win the game." Still, he added, he returned from Las Vegas asking himself, "Do I really want to show the films to my kids?"
He decided to do so, and the St. Anthony players learned enough to help them defeat the Mariners. But another viewing may not be as productive when St. Monica plays host to the Saints in a rematch at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26.
"I have no doubt that St. Monica is still the team to beat" in the Camino Real League, Roanhaus said. "Look at the weapons on that squad."
The biggest gun is probably 6-foot, 5-inch senior Cleveland Jackson, who scored a game-high 25 points and dominated the backboards against St. Anthony.
"You're not going to shut him down," said Roanhaus. He added that he doesn't have a player taller than 6-2 and compensated for that by starting three small but quick guards against the Mariners.
One of St. Monica's sharper weapons, 6-4 senior point guard Mark Johnson, has been blunted. Johnson is recovering from what Klemm said is a "slight tear" in the ligament of his right knee. Johnson hasn't played much because of the injury and has been replaced as a starter by a sophomore, 6-3 Jahi Bacon.
Bacon has been a good replacement, but Klemm said he "needs to refine his game, make better decisions and cut down on turnovers."
Roanhaus said that "if Leo has Mark Johnson at 100%, they're unstoppable." His team was able to stop the Mariners for three reasons, he said:
"No. 1, the game meant more to us. No. 2, they were on the road for 2 1/2 weeks, and we know that played a part in the game. No. 3, I've coached against Leo for four years, and I have a pretty good idea of what they're going to do in certain situations. I guessed right; I could be wrong the next time."
He said it also didn't hurt that one of his players, senior Damon Powell, scored 23 points against St. Monica on eight-of-nine shooting from the field.
Klemm said another factor in the loss might have been that his players were feeling that a Camino Real league team might not be as strong as the teams they had faced in Las Vegas.
"I told them the league is always tough," said Klemm, adding that some of the tougher teams in the league include St. Bernard, Serra and Verbum Dei.
The Mariners must have taken Klemm's advice to heart last Friday. St. Monica routed El Segundo, 94-43. Jackson led St. Monica with 27 points and 14 rebounds, and Bacon had 18 points and eight assists.