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SOUTHERN SECTION BOYS' BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS

Mater Dei Is Once Again Favored to Win in Division I-A

February 13, 1996|MIKE TERRY

The Southern Section boys' basketball playoffs, which begin Wednesday night, have a familiar ring to them.

Top-ranked Mater Dei is favored to repeat as the champion in Division I-A.

There's a strong possibility that Compton Dominguez and Tustin, the county's second-ranked team, could wind up in a rematch of last season's Division II-A final, won by Dominguez, 77-59.

Sonora, No. 8 in the county, is back as one of the top-seeded teams in Division III-AA and will try to advance to a final for the first time since 1984.

There are other familiar out-of-county teams, besides Dominguez, vying for titles in 10 divisions. Eighteen teams that advanced to divisional championship games last season, including eight defending champions, return.

Some divisions, because of enrollment changes, have new faces.

Corona del Mar, for example, which won the 1994-95 Division IV-AA title, received a wild-card bid in Division III-AA this season. The Sea Kings (15-10) play host to West Hills Chaminade (13-14) Wednesday.

Lakewood Artesia, last year's Division III-AA champion, has moved up to Division II-A, where it could pose a formidable threat to Tustin and Dominguez.

Mater Dei (27-1), which has won 27 consecutive games, opens Friday against slumping Santa Ana (12-12).

Tustin (23-3) plays host to El Modena (13-13) Friday. Sonora (20-6) plays the winner of Wednesday's Pacifica-Calabasas wild-card game on Friday.

Here's a division-by-division look at the playoffs:

DIVISION I-AA

Defending champion: Fontana.

Top teams: Long Beach Jordan (24-3), Esperanza (23-3), Victorville Victor Valley (23-2), Antelope Valley (18-7).

Dark horses: Bellflower St. John Bosco (14-12). Schea Cotton (25.3 points) is back, making the Braves anything but a third-place Del Rey League team. Fontana (17-6) has had a checkered season, but multitalented Corey Benjamin (28.1 points, 12 rebounds) makes the defending champions dangerous.

Top players: Akrum Alrahib (Arcadia), Trevor Beal (Victor Valley), Jerald Gibbs (Rialto Eisenhower), Josh Greer (Esperanza), Brian Johnson (St. John Bosco), A.D. Lamoureux (Los Alamitos), Richard Lopez (Bell Gardens), Ryan Nielsen (Simi Valley Royal), Matt Noon (Temecula Valley), Jeff Parris (Jordan).

Notes: There are three county teams--Esperanza, Los Alamitos and Santa Ana Valley--in this division. . . . Friday's first round is loaded with potential upsets. Bell Gardens has the unenviable task of playing host to St. John Bosco. Santa Ana Valley is at Palmdale Highland. Esperanza, despite its best season under Coach Mark Hill and its first Sunset League title, could be in trouble against Eisenhower now that starting center Josh Greer broke his right foot and is lost for the season. . . . Jordan's only losses were to Mater Dei (once) and Dominguez (twice), the prohibitive favorite to win the Division II-A crown. . . . Victor Valley is having its best season since 1983, when the Jackrabbits were 23-1. . . . Pico Rivera El Rancho has two potential stars in 6-5 sophomores Jose Herrer (11.6 points, seven rebounds) and Mauricio Garcia (8.7 points and 7.4 rebounds). . . . Fontana had to change coaches when Mike Southworth quit because of stress. He was replaced by Cliff Dodds in January. The Steelers come into the tournament having won their last six games.

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