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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Purnell Grabs Control in Middle

North Valley: San Fernando senior dominates in 67-63 victory over Birmingham.

January 31, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FERNANDO — With size 17 shoes, huge hands and arms as long as a broomstick, Tyrone Purnell of San Fernando High is a 6-foot-8 force and still learning how to play basketball.

There are moments, like Friday night against Birmingham, when he's capable of dominating. He scored 15 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked five shots in San Fernando's 67-63 North Valley League victory.

"Without him, they're not the same team," an admiring Birmingham Coach Al Bennett said.

Purnell scored a basket with one second left before halftime on a lob pass to give San Fernando (19-2, 5-0) a 37-30 halftime lead. He opened the third quarter with a dunk and added another to help the Tigers take a 15-point lead.

Birmingham (13-7, 3-3) kept battling behind Stanley Fletcher (24 points), but the Braves couldn't overcome Purnell's impressive third quarter when he contributed eight points and intimidated players with his size.

"He was doing it at both ends of the court, rebounding and blocking shots," Tiger Coach Mick Cady said.

Devin Montgomery scored 21 points and Mike Page added 12 points and 16 rebounds for a San Fernando team that played without starting forward Luis De La Rosa, who was absent because of a family illness.

San Fernando is running away with the North Valley title on its way to earning a possible No. 1 seed for the City Section 3-A playoffs.

The Tigers aren't playing as well as they did during Christmas time, when they almost upset Simi Valley in the Hart tournament final. But Cady isn't concerned.

"We're finding ways to win," he said. "I don't think we're playing great basketball, but teams go through these kinds of stretches."

Bennett was thrilled with his team's performance, particularly point guard Fahim Hassankhail, who effectively beat San Fernando's full-court press with his dribbling and passing skills.

"I keep telling everybody he's the best point guard around," Bennett said. "I'm really proud of my team. I'm excited. They played their hearts out and showed they can play with that caliber of a team."

Purnell, a senior, is one day going to make a college coach very happy. He runs the court well and has excellent coordination. He once was a swimmer for Taft, but his San Fernando teammates don't believe him. "They just can't see me in Speedos," he said.

He wears prescription goggles during games and is known to play Nintendo day and night.

"He's the nicest kid in the world," Cady said.

Said Bennett: "He's the glue to that team--he's a defensive stopper."

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