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BOYS' BASKETBALL PREVIEW

Freeway League

November 24, 1998

Buena Park: 9-15, 1-9 in 1997-98. Coach: Ed Matillo (11th year, 113-135). The Coyotes might be the county sleeper with 6-6 senior post-player Matt Okoro, who averaged 6.4 rebounds, and three other returning starters. Returning are Jaamall Allen, a 6-1 guard, DeAndre Gipson, a 6-2 swingman who averaged 10 points and four assists, and Matt Rodriquez, a 6-3 junior. Also back is Ryan Rosales, a 5-11 guard. Josh Parmellee, a 6-5 center, adds height.

Fullerton: 9-15, 3-7 in 1997-98. Coach: Bill Czech (third year, 21-31). Although not overly tall, the Indians will be more experienced than they have been in recent seasons. Four starters return. They are 6-foot junior guard Akachi Azubuike, 6-3 1/2 junior guard Michael Bridgford, 5-10 senior guard Michael Brown and 6-5 junior forward Maan Sidhu. Azubuike and Bridgford combined to score 18 points per game last season. Also back are 5-11 guard Michael Chambers and 6-6 forward Josh Nettinga, both seniors. Six-foot forward Enrique Tirado, 6-3 forward Jimmy Gentry and 5-11 guard Erik Torres, all seniors, should compete for playing time.

La Habra: 13-14, 6-4 in 1997-98. Coach: Craig Falconer (first year). Falconer took Calvary Chapel to back-to-back Southern Section title games, and in five seasons with the Eagles won more than 100 games. But he has a rebuilding project ahead of him now. He's the third coach in three seasons for the Highlanders, who have no returning starters. Seniors Mathew Allard, a 6-4 center, Kyle Fitzpatrick, a 6-4 forward, and Greg Kinghill, a 6-2 forward, will likely start. Also expected to start is Jason Smallwood, a 5-11 junior guard.

Sonora: 24-5, 9-1 in 1997-98. Coach: Mike Murphy (ninth year, 171-59). The Raiders aren't as tall as they have been. They have won at least a piece of six consecutive league titles. Still, they figure to be explosive. One of the league's top two players, 6-3 senior guard Marqui Worthy, who averaged 18 points last season, returns. There's also firepower from Sunny Hills transfer Bim Okunrinboye, a 6-foot senior guard who averaged 19.3 points for the Lancers. Six reserves will battle for starting roles along with three newcomers. "We are very young and could start two sophomores and a junior," Murphy said.

Sunny Hills: 11-15, 2-8 in 1997-98. Coach: Randy Wellen (fourth season, 34-44). Reserves Eric Hardeman, a 6-6 junior center, and Nathan Hochgesang, a 6-3 junior, are the only returning players, prompting Wellen to admit that, without Okunrinboye, it "could be a long season." Hardeman averaged 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds and Hochgesang averaged 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds. That puts lots of pressure on Richard Bennett, a 6-3 senior forward, and Nima Mehran, a 5-11 senior guard, to step into starting roles in their first year on the varsity. "We have no proven scorer," Wellen said.

Troy: 22-5, 9-1 in 1997-98. Coach: T.J. Hardeman (ninth year, 134-94). Hardeman doesn't see any reason the Warriors and Sonora won't battle for the league title, but gives his team, with three starters back, the edge. "We should win it," he said. All-county first-team choice Jerry Inzunza, a senior, is a big reason why. He averaged 24.5 points last season, as the Warriors split games with Sonora. Also back are 6-5 senior all-league forward Jeff Jonaitis and 6-3 senior swingman Theron Chaney, both starters. Senior Kyle Fulmer, a 6-4 forward, and Alex Raco, a 5-8 junior, also return. Mark Ahlberg, a 6-6 junior, and Sean Christensen, a 6-2 junior, are up off the junior varsity team.

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