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PREVIEWS : NORTHWEST VALLEY

Cady's Slow-Growth Project Blooming for San Fernando

January 13, 1998|MICHAEL LAZARUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mick Cady has slowly put together the pieces of a winning basketball team since arriving at San Fernando High in 1994.

The Tigers had struggled in Northwest Valley Conference play for years and failed to improve in Cady's first two seasons. San Fernando was 0-10 and 2-8 in conference play before finishing 6-4 last season.

The turnaround has continued this season.

San Fernando is 13-2, favored to win the City Section 3-A Division title and ranked third in the region behind Simi Valley and Chaminade by The Times. The Tigers lost to No. 1 Simi Valley in the final of the Hart tournament two weeks ago.

"A lot of people are probably still having trouble believing this is San Fernando doing this well," Cady said. "But I expected this after our summer."

San Fernando has more quality players than any team in its conference.

Senior center Tyrone Purnell has dominated at times, junior guard Devin Montgomery--a transfer from Ribet Academy--leads the Tigers in scoring, senior wing Luis DeLaRosa is a three-year starter, and senior wing Mike Page--the team's most improved player--has become a three-point shooting threat.

Forward Reggie Kinlaw and guard Bryson Atkins, both starters last season, are key reserves.

Still, the Tigers will be challenged from the start. San Fernando hosts Cleveland in a conference opener Wednesday.

In the semifinals of the Hart tournament, Cleveland played San Fernando close before losing, 76-70. After the game, Cleveland Coach Andre Chevalier got into a shouting match with a San Fernando assistant over rough play, setting up an anticipated rematch. Both teams are simmering after not playing in two weeks.

After tying for the West Valley League title in Chevalier's first season as coach, Cleveland figured to rebuild after losing five starters.

But junior guard Kent Dennis, a transfer from Bell-Jeff, has added consistent scoring for the Cavaliers (10-5), averaging 20 points. Forwards Simmagin and Brian Smith, who are brothers, provide rebounding, and Kenny Mason is an experienced point guard.

San Fernando might have trouble winning a league title if Birmingham (9-4) is as tough as it was last season. The Braves had the best record in the conference and return three starters.

Fahim Hassankhail is a three-year starter at point guard, Emmanuel Evans is an effective forward with a 15-foot shooting range, and swingman Stanley Fletcher is a shooting threat. Fletcher took 27 shots in a victory over Grant in the final of the Birmingham tournament.

Most of the conference, especially the West Valley League teams, should be improved after lackluster performances last season.

Taft (7-3) returns starters Amir Bar-Netzer and Brandyn Fisher along with Harold Shevlin, who started for the Toreadors as a sophomore before transferring to Chatsworth. Shevlin returned to Taft last summer and is second on the team in scoring.

Chatsworth (9-5), the top team in the conference three years ago, is improving after hitting bottom last season, winning only one conference game. The Chancellors have played a demanding schedule.

Only Kennedy (7-6), which lost five starters, is worse than it was last season. First-year Coach Tim Guy is building for the future with sophomore Montel Duhon and junior Nana Gbenonyo.

Granada Hills (6-8) and El Camino Real (5-6) have struggled but are capable of reaching the 3-A playoffs.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

AT A GLANCE

* THE PROVEN: Birmingham senior Fahim Hassankhail has been one of the best point guards in the conference for the past three years. This year he leads city teams from the region in assists (8.2 per game). . . .Amir Bar-Netzer, a 6-foot-5 center, has anchored Taft's front line for the past three seasons and helped the Toreadors to a 7-3 nonconference record. . . .Chatsworth senior guard Montae McFarland averages 18 points a game but is capable of scoring points in bunches. . . .Other three-year starters include Emmanuel Evans of Birmingham, Leon Pimky of Granada Hills and Tyrone Purnell and Luis DeLaRosa of San Fernando.

* THE PROMISING: Junior Kent Dennis has shown a promising scoring touch for Cleveland since transferring from Bell-Jeff over the summer, averaging 20.6 points a game. . . .San Fernando junior Devin Montgomery, a transfer from Ribet Academy, has been as good as advertised, averaging 17.1 points and 4.2 assists a game. . . .Justin Saad-Anthony of El Camino Real and Montell Duhon of Kennedy are sophomores who lead their teams in scoring.

* FAST FACT: Cleveland was the last conference team to reach the City Section 4-A semifinals, losing to Dorsey in 1994.

* 1996-97 STANDINGS: West Valley League (4-A): Cleveland 7-3 in league, 20-7 overall; Kennedy 7-3, 14-9; Taft 4-6, 13-11; Chatsworth 1-9, 8-13; North Valley League (3-A): Birmingham 8-2, 19-8; San Fernando 6-4, 14-13; Granada Hills 5-5, 13-11; El Camino Real 2-8, 7-15.

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