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Palmdale Challenges Antelope Valley's Rule


The Antelope Valley High boys' basketball team was the coaches' preseason favorite in the competitive Golden League, but Palmdale has been thrust to the forefront.

Palmdale, one of two teams with a winning record heading into league play this week, features the league's leading scorer, Kerry Yates.

Yates, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound senior forward, has nearly doubled his scoring average of last season, averaging 27.3 points in the Falcons' first 14 games.

"He's scored a lot more for us than I thought he would coming into the season," Palmdale Coach Garry Phelps said.

Unfortunately for Palmdale (9-6), which recently finished third in the Bullhead City tournament in Arizona, the Falcons appear to be a one-man show. Yates is the only returning starter from a team that finished second to Antelope Valley last season.

"[Yates is] playing real steady for us offensively," Phelps said. "We just need to find a couple of other guys who can score for us and we'll be OK."

While not blessed with much size, Palmdale has been making noise with team quickness and a fairly deep bench.

Antelope Valley (8-6), like Palmdale, lost the bulk of its talent to graduation. But while Palmdale lost two of its top scorers, the Antelopes lost four.

What's left from a 23-7 team are 6-4 Roger Price and 6-1 Josh Speaks, both senior forwards. With newcomer Tez Brown, a 6-6, 190-pound senior center, the Antelopes appear to have the most size in the league.

Palmdale will have to find other ways to match up against the Antelopes.

"We'll just have to use our quickness," Phelps said.

Quartz Hill (7-7), which finished fourth in league last season, has the most experience of any team, but hasn't received any help from its bench. Quartz Hill has been competitive in every game, Coach Bernard Nichter said, but the Rebels have let several games slip away in the final minutes.

Still, Quartz Hill stands the best chance of earning at least a third-place finish and a playoff berth.

"I think our first five are as good as anybody's," Nichter said.

The Rebels return four starters, including the team's leading scorers.

Shawn Lett, a senior guard who averaged 14.2 points last season, is scoring more than 20 points a game this season. Chris Herbert, a 6-foot senior forward who set school records for blocked shots last season, averaged 13.8 points last year.

Six-foot guards Jason Tomlin and Mario Grimm round out the experienced foursome.

Littlerock (4-8), Lancaster (4-9) and Highland (3-10) have found the going tough in the nonleague season, but have the personnel to be competitive and shouldn't be taken for granted.



* THE PROVEN: Palmdale senior forward Kerry Yates (6-2) has nearly doubled his scoring average from a year ago, scoring 27.3 points a game in the Falcons' first 14 games. . . . Quartz Hill's leading scorers last season, guard Shawn Lett and forward Chris Hebert, combined for more than 28 points a game. Starting guards Jason Tomlin and Mario Grimm also return for Quartz Hill. . . . Roger Price and Josh Speaks are the only returning starters from the defending champion Antelopes. . . . Senior forward Wendell Bonner, the only returning starter for Highland, averaged 11.6 points a game last season.

* THE PROMISING: Littlerock should get a lift from 6-7 junior center Tony Mayes, who was ineligible last season. . . . Antelope Valley's Tez Brown, a 6-6 senior center, has made an impression on opposing coaches. . . . Guard Brady Chelette of Lancaster, in its first season of varsity basketball, gives the Eagles something to cheer about.

* FAST FACT: The last team to win consecutive titles was Palmdale, which won three titles from 1993-95.

* 1996-97 STANDINGS: 1. Antelope Valley 23-7 overall, 8-0 in league; 2. Palmdale 16-10, 6-2; 3. Highland 7-20, 3-5; 4. Quartz Hill 7-16, 2-6; 5. Littlerock 3-22, 1-7.

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