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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
PREVIEWS

Contending Teams Stay Away From Favorite Tag

January 07, 1998|DAVE DESMOND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Naturally, every team wants to win the Golden League girls' basketball championship. It's just that none cares to be labeled the favorite.

"I think you'd have to consider Highland and Littlerock the favorites," said Palmdale High Coach George Corisis, whose three-time defending championship team has no returning starters.

But Littlerock Coach Tom Hegre warned: "Don't count out George and Palmdale."

Said Highland Coach Tim Knight: "Littlerock and Palmdale have played the toughest December schedules. That's one of the things you have to do to do well in league."

Palmdale, which has a 30-game league winning streak, is 4-10.

Littlerock (7-5) has more experience than any of its rivals and features one of the league's best athletes--senior guard Jameka Taylor, two-time Golden League triple-jump champion.

The Lobos were 13-6 last season when Taylor was sidelined by an ankle injury. They finished 13-10.

Palmdale is rebuilding after four starters graduated and sophomore L'Tanya Robnett transferred to Harvard-Westlake.

Knight helped coach boys' and girls' teams to Florida state championships, guided an adult men's club team to success in Kuwait and most recently coached the Highland boys' team during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.

He turned the Highland boys' team over to co-coach Lynn Boop at the start of last season, but stepped back into the Bulldog coaching picture when girls' coach Cammy Henderson resigned.

Highland finished last and has yet to qualify for the playoffs entering its seventh varsity season.

But Knight has three talented athletes--senior forward Kameelah Purdom, junior guard Mae Bidaure and junior center Tiffany Winkfield, who has missed much of the last two seasons because of knee injuries.

"Our primary goal is to make the playoffs," Knight said. "But just to shoot for the playoffs and not the championship is shooting too low. We'd like to win the championship."

The Bulldogs (10-3) just don't want to be the favorites.

Quartz Hill (2-8), Antelope Valley (2-9) and Lancaster (4-7) don't have that problem.

Quartz Hill lost four starters to graduation, three who went on to Division I programs. Coach Steve Lankford will try to build around junior forward Nicole Williford and senior center Shereen Green.

April Davenport, the third coach in three seasons at Antelope Valley, must rebuild a team that was 14-27 the past two seasons. Freshman guard Crystal McCutcheon is a good starting point.

Lancaster, playing its first season at the varsity level, will have no senior class until next school year.

The Eagles are off to a good start, however, having won the junior varsity league championship last season.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

AT A GLANCE

* THE PROVEN: Forward Carrie Miller and guard Jameka Taylor combined to average nearly 20 points last season for Littlerock. Guard Mae Bidaure and forward Kameelah Purdom are keys to Highland's pursuit of its first playoff berth. Nicole Williford is the only returning starter from Quartz Hill's second-place team. Shereen Green of Quartz Hill could be a top post player. Summer Hoban, Tina Carrillo, Nicole Burpo and Robin Miller all return from Palmdale's league championship team, though none were starters.

* THE PROMISING: Antelope Valley guard Crystal McCutcheon could be the best freshman in the league. Forwards Vonetta Lanier and Jennifer Keating are keys to Palmdale's rebuilding season. Highland center Tiffany Winkfield is coming off two seasons of injuries and surgeries. Lancaster begins its first season of varsity play after winning the league junior varsity title. Sophomores Lizette Rams and Kristel Jones have been key contributors for Littlerock. Center Tara Baldridge and point guard Lennette Richardson are promising sophomores for Quartz Hill.

* FAST FACT: The last team to defeat Palmdale in league play was Quartz Hill during the 1993-94 season.

* 1996-97 STANDINGS: 1. Palmdale 24-4 overall, 8-0 in league play; 2. Quartz Hill 16-3, 6-2; 3. (tie) Littlerock 13-11, 2-6; Antelope Valley 4-16, 2-6; Highland 10-15, 2-6. (Lancaster played at the junior varsity level)

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