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High school close-ups

Profiles of some of the Southland's top athletes:

January 06, 2006|LAUREN PETERSON; DAN ARRITT;MARTIN HENDERSON

BOYS' BASKETBALL

DARREN MOORE

Sr., Chino Hills Ayala

Then: After playing at the lower levels during his first two seasons, Moore had his first taste of varsity as a junior. Sharing the backcourt last season with Stephan Gilling, now a starting guard at Colorado State, Moore averaged 11.7 points and set a school record with 87 steals. He had a season-high 22 points in a 67-61 victory over Los Angeles Dorsey in a semifinal of the Cathedral City tournament, and helped the Bulldogs reach the Southern Section Division I-AA semifinals. He was selected to the Division I-AA second team.

Now: Having signed with Northern Colorado in November, Moore could wind up as the steal of the Southland recruiting class. Averaging close to 24 points and four steals, he scored a career-high 37 points against Bloomington three weeks ago and set a school record last month by making 38 consecutive free throws. A 6-foot-3 guard who won't turn 17 until later this month, Moore scored 33 points in a 64-55 victory over Lakewood Mayfair in the championship game of the Ayala tournament and 33 last week in a 59-56 victory over North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake at the Cathedral City tournament, which was won by the Bulldogs (12-1), who are ranked eighth in the Southland by The Times. Moore was selected as the tournament most valuable player for the second time this season.

Quote: "He was kind of in Gilling's shadow last year, but he was one of our most indispensable players," Coach Tom Gregory said. "He didn't have any huge games but was really solid."

--DAN ARRITT

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GIRLS' BASKETBALL

WHITNEY WOOD

Jr., Santa Margarita

Then: The daughter of All-American Leon Wood, Cal State Fullerton's career scoring and assist leader who played in the 1984 Olympics and the NBA and is now an NBA official, Whitney had an immediate effect at Santa Margarita. A 6-foot-1 freshman who came off the bench, she averaged 8.1 points and 6.7 rebounds to help the Eagles reach the 2004 Southern Section Division III-AA finals. She moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore, averaged a team-high 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds, helped the Eagles win a section championship and was named the section's Division III-AA co-player of the year with teammate Brittany Taylor, then a junior guard.

Now: A 6-2 force in the post, Wood has averaged 14.8 points and 7.0 rebounds for the Eagles (13-2), who are ranked sixth by The Times. Two weeks ago they finished second in the Blue Division at the Nike Tournament of Champions, and last week won the Orange County Championships. A larger task looms Saturday, when Santa Margarita plays host to No. 1 Fullerton Troy. Wood, who sings in the school choir, also carries a 4.0 grade-point average.

Quote: "She understands the game, she's very smart, she could be my assistant coach," Coach Richard Schaaf said. "She understands basketball that well."

--MARTIN HENDERSON

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BOYS' SOCCER

KEVIN O'CONNOR

Jr., Santa Margarita

Then: O'Connor flashed his trademark speed and developed his footwork and pinpoint touch last year, leading the junior varsity team with 12 goals before being promoted to the varsity for the playoffs. He rode the bench, however, as the Eagles advanced to the Southern Section Division I semifinals. He is also a second baseman on the school's baseball team.

Now: O'Connor, who is 5 feet 10 and 155 pounds, has eight goals and six assists for Santa Margarita (15-3-0), which has averaged more than three goals while outscoring opponents, 55-19. He has stepped up to compensate for injuries to fellow forwards Steffen Canty, who has been playing on a sore ankle, and Mike Munoz, who has a broken right leg. O'Connor finished with four goals and four assists in seven games in leading the Eagles to a runner-up finish in the prestigious West Coast Soccer Classic last week. Their run included victories over defending Central Section Division I champion Watsonville, defending Southern Section Division I champion La Verne Damien and defending Southern Section Division III champion Santa Ana Saddleback. A 2-1 semifinal victory over Saddleback ended the Roadrunners' 42-game unbeaten streak, but Santa Margarita fell, 2-1, to Fresno Clovis West in the tournament championship match.

Quote: "This year's supposed to be our year," O'Connor said. "We have high expectations, and we're just working as hard as we can and trying to fulfill them."

--LAUREN PETERSON

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