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Getting Shot Down at The Pond

March 09, 2000|PAIGE A. LEECH

There's no denying the Simi Valley High boys' basketball team embarrassed itself with a poor shooting performance Saturday in the Southern Section Division I-A championship game.

With senior stars Branduinn Fullove and Brett Michel driving down the team average on a combined three-of-31 effort, the Pioneers shot a season-low 24.6% in a 53-39 loss to Mater Dei.

But Simi Valley wasn't the only team that seemed blind-folded in the finals. Not by a long shot.

Of the 18 boys' teams that played in Southern Section finals at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim or at Loyola Marymount, only five shot better than 40%. All five won.

Five other teams, including Simi Valley, shot less than 30%. No surprise, all five lost. Brea Olinda had the worst performance, making only 10 of 43 shots (23%) in its Division II-AA loss to Dominguez.

Futility wasn't limited to Simi Valley's stars.

Mater Dei's Steve Scoggin, one of Orange County's best outside shooters, was two of 15, including one of nine from three-point range. Long Beach Poly star point guard Wesley Stokes was one of 12.

With so many players and teams shooting poorly in the finals, one has to wonder, what gives?

How could a championship-caliber team like Simi Valley shoot 55.3% through its first 30 games and less than half that in a final?

Forget about the nerves. Blame it on The Pond.

The Pond is unlike any gym Simi Valley, or any other team, has played in all season.

For starters, the court at The Pond is about 10 feet longer than an average high school court.

But the difference that seems to have affected players the most is the area beyond the court. Specifically, the seats, banners and open space surrounding the baskets that could distort a shooter's depth perception.

In most high school gyms, there are walls on both ends of the court, about six feet from the baskets.

"The background behind the baskets is just totally different [at The Pond], and the depth perception is definitely affected by that," said Paul Castillo, assistant commissioner in charge of boys' basketball for the Southern Section.

"But I don't know if playing at The Pond for the kids doesn't balance that out."

Coach Christian Aurand of Simi Valley agrees there is a trade-off involved in playing at The Pond, a major-league arena that reduces many high school players to bush-league shooters.

"The depth perception is a little off compared to what you see in a high school gym," Aurand said. "[But] what are you going to do? It's a great experience to play in that kind of arena."

Southern Section officials agree that The Pond isn't a high school player's paradise, but there are no plans to change the sites of section finals. Anyway, shooting percentages would suffer in most large arenas in Southern California.

"As it turned out, long-distance shooters seemed to be consistent," Castillo said. "It was tough on all of them, so it wasn't an advantage [for any team]."

Of the 12 teams that played at The Pond, six shot less than 15% from three-point range. Brea Olinda was one of 15 (6.7%) and Mater Dei was one of 13 (7.7%).

The two teams that shot the best also shot fewer three-pointers: Artesia was three of five (60%) and Serra was five of nine (55.6%) from beyond the arc. Combined, the 12 teams shot 22% from three-point range.

Simi Valley made only three of 23 (13%) three-point shots, 14 of 57 overall.

However, Aurand didn't blame poor depth perception for his team's worst outing of the season.

"Mater Dei's defense was outstanding," he said. [Depth perception] is probably part of the equation, but another big part is we just had a very off night.

"Good defense and poor shooting percentage is a bad combination to have."

Especially at The Pond.

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