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BETWEEN THE LINES | HIGH SCHOOLS

December 21, 1996

Enemy No. 1: When Eli Essa left North Hollywood after nine seasons as boys' basketball assistant coach to take over the program at Bell-Jeff, he figured he left the Huskies in his past.

He figured wrong.

Two of Bell-Jeff's first four games were against North Hollywood. Bell-Jeff won the first, a nonleague game, on a half-court shot at the buzzer, and the second in overtime at a tournament.

"I'm surprised [North Hollywood Coach] Steve Miller is still talking to me," Essa said.

"It's a bittersweet pill to take, like playing one-on-one against your father. You don't want to beat him but that's what he taught you to do."

Better than ever: Oak Park's Randy Gastwirt, who averaged 17 points and was one of two juniors on The Times' All-Ventura County basketball team last season, is even better this season.

Gastwirt, 6 feet 4 and 200 pounds, is averaging 22.5 points for the Eagles (4-2) after working with a personal trainer last summer.

"The good players tend to be full of themselves, especially if they do well as juniors," Coach Randy Hall said.

"But Randy's very self-motivated, even though we don't run many plays just for him."

Even some of the shots Gastwirt takes that don't count are good. He heaved in one from 60 feet one second after time expired in a victory over Agoura.

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