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Ventura County Star Looks At Area
Leagues, Teams & Players--(Dec. 19, 1998)

Ed Zintel and Loren Ledin are two writers who do pretty good work, and they also are pretty familiar with most of the teams they'll be reporting on this year.  They've pegged Simi and Santa Clara as the two favorites in the area to win Southern Section. Here's their story, with a little of our commentary thrown in:  

Has greatness come calling?

It has, perhaps, for two Ventura County boys' basketball teams who aspire not merely for league championships, but for CIF-Southern Section crowns in 1998-99.

Simi Valley, with its Big Three of Rafael Berumen, Branduinn Fullove and Brett Michel, figures to follow up its semifinal appearance in Division I-AA with another deep run into the postseason CIF-Southern Section playoffs. Santa Clara, runner-up last season in Division V-AA, returns the ballyhooed backcourt of B.J. Ward and Nick Jones for a possible crack at both CIF-SS and state championships.

In beginning the season at 4-0 -- including a come-from-behind 82-76 victory over Santa Clara in the championship game of the Simi Valley Tipoff Classic -- Simi Valley is gearing up for a special season with an ambitious schedule that includes two national tournaments.

The Pioneers begin competition Friday in the Great Florida Shootout in Kissimmee, Fla., then head to the Nike National Prep Classic at Torrey Pines High in San Diego following Christmas. For good measure, Simi Valley will participate in the prestigious Martin Luther King Classic at Cal State Dominguez Hills on Jan. 17. [actually it's called the Adidas-Double Pump MLK Hoops Festival].  

"We've been fortunate to attain status as a national program," said head coach Dean Bradshaw, who is in his 10th season and has compiled a coaching record of 187-78 over nine seasons. "Playing against teams in that category is the best way for us to improve and get ready for the challenges of the playoffs. I hope not, but it's possible that we could have eight or nine losses this season. I certainly expect us to become a better team by playing against the best teams."  Fullove, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, concurs.   "We're looking forward to playing against some great teams this season.  That's the best way for us to improve as a team." 

Santa Clara, of course, already has  assured itself of an historic season. With a 79-47 victory over Carpinteria on Dec. 8, the Saints presented coach Lou Cvijanovich with his state-record 803rd victory.

Elsewhere in the county, parity may be the rule in a number of hot league races. While Santa Clara and Simi Valley are the prohibitive favorites in their leagues, the competition for playoff berths is wide open. So are the races in the Channel, Pacific View and Tri-Valley leagues.

Here's a look at area leagues:

MARMONTE

Besides its talented trio, Simi Valley counts on a big year from sophomore point guard Shaun Michel and 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Dustin Villepigue.  Villepigue grew five inches over the summer after averaging 14.5 points and 10.1 rebounds for the Simi Valley sophomore team. Villepigue figures to step right in at the starting power forward slot.   More depth is moving up from last year's JV team.  Strength on the bench will be offered by 6-4 Kareem Lacy, 5-11 Ben Williams, 6-1 Tony Ward, 6-1 Anel Sharda and 6-2 Calvin Bell.

Newbury Park, last year's Marmonte League champion, is ready to go now that football season is over and quarterback Nick Czernek is on the hardwood. He is one of several threats for Newbury Park, along with Brian Polen and Brian Bobik, a senior, who is the younger brother of Daniel Bobik, last year's league MVP. 

Royal should be stronger than last year when it went 2-12 in league. Most of Royal's lineup has returned. Joining Royal is cat-quick point guard Brandon Foster, a senior transfer from Simi Valley.  Dustin Cruz, a senior guard is a returning all-leaguer and is joined at guard by Matt Janousek.  Cameron Dickson returns at a forward, along with Scott Rice at center. Christian Ronquillo, a junior, is also back as the only non-senior of the starters.

Westlake, which finished 14-10 overall last year, is led by high-scoring guard Jake DeGennaro. 

Moorpark, the new member of the Marmonte League, is led by Todd Tomlinson, a 6-foot junior shooting guard and 6-foot senior point guard Shawn Corkery. 

Agoura is led by senior Garrett Lepisto, a second-team all-league pick last year, senior Mike Patterson and 6-4 sophomore center Adam Allegro.   Agoura lacks height and will need to play outstanding defense throughout the season to contend.

"Outside of Simi Valley, it's a pretty open and competitive league," said Moorpark coach Tim Bednar.

CHANNEL LEAGUE

Dos Pueblos returns senior guard ShanTay Legans and senior Alex Jenkins, a first-team selection last year. That makes the Chargers the favorites to repeat as league champions.  

At Ventura, Jeff Staniland, a senior guard who was a first team all-league and second-team all-county pick last year when he averaged 21 points a game, is on par to break in January the school's 30-year-old career scoring record held by Danny Roberts. He's joined by senior guard Jeff Pabst, an honorable mention all-league returner; Mike Derse, a 6-3 junior forward; senior guard Gary Peterson and 6-4 center Kyle Bauerline.

Buena finished 2-12 in league last year but figures to improve on that with Danny Thompson returning for his senior year. 

PACIFIC VIEW LEAGUE

This new league looks to be fairly wide open.

Oxnard returns senior Damian Tafoya who was a second team all-Channel League pick in 1997-98. Also back are senior Gary Eberhardt and Jacob Galloway, both honorable mention all-league performers last season. Oxnard had a fine summer, winning 20 straight games at one point.

Hueneme reurns three starters from last year: Dwight Norman, Carlos Bailey and Robert Luna. But, as coach Tom McCollum points out, "You have to give consideration to recent success and we have to show we can win."

Camarillo, led by 6-5 Kyle Lassiter, compiled a 3-2 mark to start the season, indicating it could very well end up heading the pack. Ryan Miyamota, a 5-8 junior point guard, is the team's floor leader.

Channel Islands graduated two top players in O.J. Thomas and Paul Blair, but Franklyn McKessen is back, giving the Raiders reason for optimism.

FRONTIER LEAGUE

Similar to the Marmonte League, there is a clear-cut favorite here and it's Santa Clara.

Coach Lou Cvijanovich recently surpassed the 800-victory mark in his career, giving him the state career record for most wins as a coach.  Guards B.J. Ward and Nick Jones return to lead a team that lost in CIF-SS divisional finals last year and advanced to the regional semifinals.  Ward, a senior, was a first-team all-league selection last year, while Jones, a junior, was a starter as a sophomore but missed most of last year with a broken foot. Both Ward and Jones are headed to UC Santa Barbara. About the only thing Santa Clara lacks is great height.

Nordhoff figures to challenge for a playoff spot with Andy Flores, a 6-3 senior forward returning. The other returning starter is Etienne Emanuel, a junior point guard. 

Calabasas is led by guards Mike Goldman, a senior point guard, and senior Spencer Hariton, who averaged 16 points last year. Kevin Quesinberry, a junior guard, is a transfer from Westlake and good defensive player.

Santa Paula's Mike Kolbeck, a senior forward, is the only returning starter from last year's title team. Danny Guzman, a senior guard and J.R. Saldino, a senior guard are the only other players with any varsity experience.

TRI-VALLEY LEAGUE

St. Bonaventure has some experience with four returning starters, including 6-6 sophomore center Brandon Duplessie, a second-team all-leaguer last year. Michael Emard, a 6-5 senior forward is also a big scorer, as is Jason Duplessie, Brandon's senior brother.

Carpinteria is considered the favorite in league, according to St. Bonaventure coach Gil Kim.

Oak Park is also formidable with junior forward Zach Smith back. 

Fillmore returns three starters, Ruben Guitierrez, Dago Pantoja and Greg Arnsdorf, but is rebuilding.

THE LEAGUES:

Channel League race: Guard Jeff Staniland puts Ventura in thick of playoff chase. Buena contends behind Danny Thomas.

Frontier League race: Santa Clara looms as the prohibitive favorite behind B.J. Ward and Nick Jones, who have already signed letters of intent with UC Santa Barbara.

Marmonte League race: Simi Valley reached the I-AA semifinals last year, but settled for second place in the league behind Newbury Park. The Big Three of Rafael Berumen, Branduinn Fullove and Brett Michel are big favorites make the Pioneers big favorites this year. Key race is for playoff spots.

Pacific View League race: With no apparent dominant team yet to emerge, this figures to be one of the most wide-open races in the area. Judging by earlier games, Oxnard and Camarillo might have the edge, but Channel Islands is also a threat, with Hueneme and Rio Mesa expected to play spoiler roles.

Tri-Valley League race: Judging by early results, St. Bonaventure and Oak Park look like the front-runners.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Rafael Berumen--  Simi Valley  (6'-9" Sr. C)   The Star's Player of the Year in '97 has signed with New Mexico.
Branduinn Fullove--  Simi Valley   (6'-5" Jr. SG) Has added strength and power to his smooth game
Brett Michel-- Simi Valley  (6'-6" Jr.F)  All-around skills put Simi Valley in hunt for I-AA title
Nick Jones--Santa Clara (6'-3" Sr.G)  Recovered from injury-plagued season a year ago
B.J. Ward--Santa Clara (6'-1" Sr. G)  Teams with Jones to give Saints the area's best backcourt
Jeff Staniland--Ventura (6'-1" Sr. G) Averaged 21 points a year ago
Damian Tafoya--Oxnard (5'-10" Sr. G) Explosive scorer may make his team Pacific View favorite
Brian Bobik --Newbury Park (6'-2" Sr. G) The latest star Bobik in the county?

The Swish Award
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