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SoCalHoops High School News

CIF-SS Almont League Preview, Schedules:
A 6'-0" & Under League? In D-IAA? --(Nov. 4, 2000)

In our effort to get more information out as completely and as quickly as possible, we've decided to prepare some league overviews.   Not every league, but certainly those leagues which have teams in them who might be considered pre-season favorites to take a run at a CIF Southern Section Championship, and in this case, the Agape League has AV Christian in it, which has gone to the semifinals or finals the last few years, so if anyone complains "why are you featuring a preview of a league as small as this?" well, that's why.  

Utilizing this format, we should be able to get more information to everyone on who is playing where and when, and what the rosters will likely look like this season.  Again, it's just not going to be possible for us to feature every CIF or City Section league and team (consider that the Southern Section alone has 76 leagues, with an average of about 6+ teams in each), so don't say we're playing favorites. . . we'll take them in a somewhat random order, but will post these if, as and when we can.    We only have so much time in the day, and  we have our doubts that we'll be able to get through even those leagues we want to preview prior to the start of regular league play (which begins in December for some leagues)but who knows, we'll give it a shot. . . . Complicating matters further is the fact that not all schools made it to last season's playoffs, and thus we don't have access to complete (or even any) rosters in some cases.  Further complicating things, some of the coaches are new and we either don't know them, or haven't gotten enough information on their teams to say anything useful.  And some of these schools haven't even submitted schedules to the CIF, so we may or may not know anything about them. Still, this should be helpful to someone, somewhere.

We will still continue to feature our more in-depth previews and profiles, but we're trying to get as much information out in as short a time as possible, so complete coverage just isn't possible.  But we're going to try.

Almont League Overview

1999-2000 Season Records League Overall
Alhambra 8-2 18-8
San Gabriel 7-3 15-11
Keppel 7-3 15-11
Bell Gardens 5-5 9-17
Montebello 3-7 9-18
Schurr 0-10 DNR

This league is sort of a curiosity in many ways, principally because it features 6 schools which are among the highest enrollments of just about any in the Southern Section (most are D-IAA, likely soon to be I-AAA, with the exception of Keppel, which is likely to stay I-A), and yet it's a league which might also be considered a true 6'-0" and under collection of players, often affectionately referred to as the "little guys."   Alhambra won the league without anyone taller than 6'-1" on the squad, which should tell you something about the "level" of competition (bad pun). . . Actually in many ways, we'd take speed over height, particularly at the high school level.  Sure the college coaches aren't likely to do much recruiting from this group,  but then most of these guys aren't out there playing in this league with any real expectation of getting recruiting either, i.e., they're just there to compete, have fun and make the most of their high school experiences (a shocking concept to some, we know, but it's true for the majority of guys out there who play just to play).   As far as the "favorite" in this year's league,   we really have no idea.   In a league where one school (Schurr) didn't even report it's final standings to the CIF, well, can you blame us for not having a great feel for these teams?  Most of the players in this league aren't the ones that you see out at the high profile summer, fall, and spring exposure events, so many of them we know only by reputation, or not at all.   And by the way, that doesn't meant that "bad" basketball is played by any of these teams. . . in fact of the games we've seen during the season or at the local tournaments, the level of competition is pretty tough, quick and defensively oriented, and some of these schools, San Gabriel in particular, have some of the nicest gyms in SoCal you'll ever want to see. . . .really, San Gabriel's new gym is spectacular.  In any event, this league is just too close to pick a favorite . . of course, we're pretty certain that it won't be Schurr. 

You can find this year's official CIF Almont League schedule at this link (or simply scroll down the page:

We've been able to get a little (very little) information on most of the teams. Where you see scoring and rebounding numbers, those averages are from the CIF Media Information forms submitted by each school prior to the start of last year's CIF playoffs, so don't blame us if they aren't accurate, they're the best we've got. 

alhambralogo.gif (1509 bytes) Alhambra Moors
Division I-AA
City: Alhambra
Nickname: Moors
Colors: Blue & Gold
Head Coach Joe Petralia
Assistnats: Vigen Jilizian, Nathan Yu

Overall Record: 18-8; League Record 8-2 (1st Place)
Returning players:

Eric Chung   (5'-9" Jr. G)        
Kiet Tran   (5'-10" Sr. G)
Johnny Tan   (5'-11" Sr. G)
Marcus Harris   (5'-11" Jr. G)
Edwin Rosario   (5'-10" Sr. F)
Chris Miller   (6'-0" Sr. F)
Hung Wong   (6'-1" Jr. C)

Alhambra is one of those teams which has done very well in league competition lately, a league in which most of the other teams have a similar makeup, i.e.,  mostly short, quick, tough-nosed guards, and not much height.   Last season Alhambra had some of the quickest, toughest players, none of them very tall though, but in high school basketball, often speed and quickness can overcome height. . . well, that is until the competition changes as it did for Alhambra in the playoffs, or when playing against many of the other high enrollment division schools they happened to see in tournament play.   And when the Moors stepped outside of familiar territory against bigger and even faster teams, they lost,  perhaps not as much overall or by as lopsided a margin as some of the other teams in their league lost by, but then that's why Alhambra finished first in the league and had the best overall record.     The Moors did go 8-2 in league play, but lost in their first contested game in the playoffs, in the second round (they got a bye in the first round, as did all other teams who won their leagues) to Fontana 63-47, which was not really much of a shocker, given how good Fontana was last year.  This year's Moors team comes back with six fewer players (last year's seniors who graduated), but none of them were taller than 6'-0" so we'd expect that coach Joe Petralia, who was the  Almont League's "Coach of the Year" won't have too much trouble replacing them.  Alhambra will likely do well in league, but will also likely continue to struggle against bigger   squads  from deeper leagues.  Edwin Rosario, a scrappy guard who was an Almont All-League First Team selection returns, and he's probably the best overall player on this squad, at least that's the consensus from what others who know Alhambra have told us.  William Vuong, another All-League selection, graduated, but Erich Chung, All-League Honorable Mention returns.

Logo Not Available Bell Gardens Lancers
Division I-AA
City: Bell Gardens (Montebello Unified School District)
Nickname: Lancers
Overall Record: 9-17, 5-5 (4th Place)
Head Coach: Charlie La Commare

Returning players:
We have no idea.  Really.   The school has no website, and we really have very little info.  Last year, Bell Gardens was, according to the Pasadena Star-News, supposed to be a team with size. Yet even the paper didn't know anything about their players. While they were supposed to be in contention for the league race, they weren't, finished in 4th, and didn't make the playoffs, hence we didn't get one of those nice little "Media" forms with information about the school, rosters, schedule of wins and losses, etc, which we got for those teams who did make the 10-win-and-you're-in playoffs last season.  We do know that Gabriel Herrera and Daniel Rosales were All-League selectoins for Bell Gardens last season, but that's about it. The school has no website, and we will be the first to admit, we don't know squat about this team for the upcoming season.  Oh, we do know that Coach La Commare replaces Rick Huff (at least that's what the CIF schedule book shows by comparing it with last year. . . .but that can't be right because some of the stories we did read about Bell Gardens from last year showed La Commare as the coach then. . . .geez are we confused, or what?  We have heard rumors though, in fact that Bell Gardens may have the best post player in the league, and is about 6'-4" (Gabriel Herrera likely), so in a league of very few 6-footers, he will be hard to contain.  Bell Gardens is also supposed to have a couple of other 6'-3" guys, but no one seems to know their names.  This is the same thing we heard last year, i.e., about "matchup" problems they might create. . . .we'll see.
Liera Marky is also supposed to be returning from what we hear and he is a good shooter.

keppel.jpg (5001 bytes) Keppel Aztecs
Division I-A
City: Alhambra
Nickname: Aztecs
Colors: Cardinal Red and White
Head Coach: Tony Grbac
Assistants: Marco Alfaro and John Tran

Overall Record: 15-11, League Record: 7-3
Returning Players:

Bill Rongavilla   (5'-9" Sr. F)   .5 ppg, .7 rpg         
*Lambee Wong   (5'-6" Sr. G)   12.3 pg, 3.0 rpg
Dinh Diep   (5'-8" Sr. F)   .7 pg, .7 rpg
Myron Chinn   (6'-2" Sr. C)   1.7 pg, .8 rpg

With only four players returning and the leading scorer from last season, Jerry Diaz gone to graduation, Keppel will need to find some offensive firepower. Keppel was a team which last season had no one bigger than returning "center" Myron Chinn, and at least he is returning.  Keppel beat Corona 58-42 in the first round of the CIF D-IA playoffs, but then ran into Mater Dei in the second round, losing about as badly as any team beaten by the Monarchs last season, 111-56.   Keppel struggled early, losing to Cloremont, Rosemead, Monrovia, Nogales, Estancia, and Woodbridge in the December tournaments, and with a schedule that has them playing some of those same teams again this season, it could be more of the same.   Expect them to make a run for the league title, but to have a realistic shot in the playoffs, they will need to devise a suitable strategy for dealing with the much taller teams they are likely to face. Lamgee Wong, an All-League (Second Team) selection last year returns, but Dustin Woo, another All-League player is one of those who graduated, as has Clark Lopez, an All-League Honorable Mention.

montebellologo.jpg (3844 bytes) Montebello Mighty Oilers
Division I-AA
City: Montebello
Nickname: Mighty Oilers
Colors: Blue, White & Gold
Head Coach: Gil Gomez

Overall Record: 9-18, League Record: 3-7 (5th)
Returning Players: If you've scanned what we've written about Bell Gardens, well, just wait until you get to our description (or lack thereof) for Schurr.  We're sort of in the same boat for Montebello. Unless we had a typo in the schedules from the 1999-2000 season, it looks like Gil Gomez has replaced yet another LaCommare, this time Dennis La Commare as the head coach. Nah, too much of a coincidence and probably a typo. . . In any event, we know pretty much who the good players were last season, but have no idea what class-level they were in, so we don't know if any are returning.  Guys like Sal Gutierrez, Jason Ludwig (All League Honorable Mention), Michael Aston, and Victor Walters (another All-League Honorable Mention).   Oh, we do know that Chris Ware will in fact be returning, and that could be significant because he's another All-League player who can hopefully help Montebello to a better record than 3-7 in league.

San Gabriel Matadors
Division I-AA
City: San Gabriel
Head Coach: Jon Keller
Nickname: Matadors
sangabrield.gif (7288 bytes)

Overall Record: 15-11, League 7-3 (2nd Place)
Returning Players and Team Notes:
This is one of the few teams we actually have some reliable information about, and that's because much of it actually comes from Coach Jon Keller, one of the hardest working guys in the San Gabriel Valley.  Here's what he had to say, largely unedited and unexpurgated (we just hope he'll still talk to us after this. . . ): "A short note about our team-- we are short. Our projected starting lineup:

*Erik Avila   6'-0" Sr. C 210lb        
*J.R. Canizal   5'-6" Sr. G   205 lbs
*John Chow   5'-8" Sr. G   155lbs
*Tuan Tien   5'-7" Sr. G   155lbs
*Johnny Tran   5'-7" Jr. G 190lbs
Justin Goodwin   6'-2" Sr. C   175lbs
Phillip Lai   5'-11" Jr. F   145lbs
Eli Espitia   5'-11" Jr. F   165lbs
Milo Alarcon   5'-9" Jr. G   150lbs

This team will definitely miss some of the offensive fire power that came with having a two-sport stud like Martin Del Toro (First Team All-League) and David Gonzalez as well as All League Honorable Mention Tony Hoang, but all of them graduated last spring, and what you see to the left, is what it is for this season.
Referring to the roster to the left, Coach Keller continued: "No there are no typos there. The Almont League would like to break off from the CIF and form our own 6' and under CIF Division since all of our teams are in Division I and in a good year we get past the first round of the play-offs.  We had a pretty good summer despite our size. We tied for first, losing only one game to Bishop Amat by three in the Arroyo Summer League. We also beat teams like Chapparall and Muir. We will be one of the favorites in our league. We have finished in 1st and 2nd in my two years there. The league is very competitive with very few blowouts. Bell Gardens went 1-4 in the 1st round of league last year losing by a combined total of like 9 points in those losses," he said.    Yes, but look what those 9 points did overall (that's our observation, not coach Keller's. . .. ).   About some of the players this season, he said:   "J.R. Canizal should be our best player, and should be First Team All-League by the end of the season."  According to others who have seen him, Canizal is the shortest player, but led the team in blocks this past summer, and can guard the other team's point guard or center, it doesn't matter because he's so tough and quick.   Erik Avila is San Gabriel's lone post player and is capable of 20 point, 10 rebound games. John Chow has only been playing organized basketball for a little over a year, but could be one of the better players on this small but quick team. On the original schedule printed by the Southern Section CIF,  San Gabriel was scheduled to be in the Arroyo Tournament, but they will play at the Montclair Prep tournament instead. And then of course, San Gabriel will host the "2nd Annual San Gabriel Matador Holiday Classic" which is set for Tuesday, December 26th through Friday December 30th.   About this tournament, Coach Keller said, "I best describe this tournament as a great 'middle of the road' tournament: For those teams who don't have the superstar D-I college recuits, but those teams who will possibly all make the playoffs. Last year, Duarte beat the host Matadors by one point on a last second shot and the Falcons are back to defend their title."  The other teams in the tournament are: Arcadia, Cerritos, Gladstone, Montclair, St. Francis (which may actually have one or two potential D-I guys), and South Pasadena.

schurr.gif (5669 bytes) Schurr Spartans
Division I-AA
Jerry Lopez All League (second team)
Sean Dixon All League (second team)

Ok, if you've read this far, then you know that Schurr finished 0-10 in league, didn't report their overall record to the Southern Section of the CIF, didn't make the playoffs (obviously) and thus we have no CIF media sheet, and thus have no information on them. Zero. Zilch. Nada.   But we do have their schedule (see below) and we managed to find their logo (above left) even if their website is rather crudely designed and lacking any real or useful information.

Official Southern Section League Schedule:

Almont League Alhambra
Bell Gardens
San Gabriel
Coach: Joe Petralia
Bell Gardens
Coach: Charlie La Commare
Nov. 28 South Pasadena Nov. 29 La Serna
Dec. 1 @El Monte Nov. 30 El Rancho
Dec. 4 @El Rancho Tournament Dec. 1 @ West Covina
Dec. 12 Alhambra Tournament Dec. 4-9 @ Arroyo Tournament
Dec. 27-30 @La Salle Tournament Dec. 19-23 @Ayala Tournament
Jan 2 @Hoover Dec. 27-30 @ Nogales Tournament
Jan 3 Cantwell Sacred Heart Jan 3 Diamond Bar
Jan 9 @*Mark Keppel Jan 9 *Montebello
Jan 12 @*Montebello Jan 12 *San Gabriel
Jan 16 *Schurr Jan 16 @*Mark Keppel
Jan 19 @*San Gabriel Jan 19 *Schurr
Jan 23 *Bell Gardens Jan 23 @*Alhambra
Jan 26 *Mark Keppel Jan 26 @*Montebello
Jan 30 *Montebello Jan 30 @*San Gabriel
Feb. 2 @*Schurr Feb. 2 *Mark Keppel
Feb. 6 *San Gabriel Feb. 6 @*Schurr
Feb. 9 @*Bell Gardens Feb. 9 *Alhambra
Coach: Tony Grbac
Coach:  Gilbert Gomez
Nov. 27 @Rosemead Dec. 1 La Serna
Nov. 30 @Glenn Dec 4-8 @ El Rancho Tournament
Dec 4-9 @Arroyo Tournament Dec 15 Cantwell Sacred Heart
Dec. 19-23 @Irvine Tournament Dec 19-23 @ Ayala Tournament
Dec 26-29 @La Salle Tournament Dec. 27-30 @ La Serna Tournament
Jan 2 @Glendale Jan 2 @El Rancho
Jan 3 Claremont Jan 3 @Duarte
Jan 9 *Alhambra Jan 9 @*Bell Gardens
Jan 12 @*Schurr Jan 12 *Alhambra
Jan 16 *Bell Gardens Jan 16 *San Gabriel
Jan 19 *Montebello Jan 19 @*Mark Keppel
Jan 23 @*San Gabriel Jan 23 @*Schurr
Jan 26 @*Alhambra Jan 26 *Bell Gardens
Jan 30 *Schurr Jan 30 @*Alhambra
Feb. 2 @*Bell Gardens Feb. 2 @*San Gabriel
Feb. 6 @*Montebello Feb. 6 *Mark Keppel
Feb. 9 *San Gabriel Feb. 9 *Schurr
San Gabriel
Coach: Jon Keller
Coach: Paul Chavez
Nov. 28 San Marino Nov. 28 El Rancho
Dec 1 @Cantewell Sacred Heart Nov. 30 @Santa Fe
Dec. 4-9 @ Montclair Prep Tournament Dec 4-8 @ El Rancho Tournament
Dec. 12-16 @ Alhambra Tournament Dec 9 @ Calvary Chapel Downey
Dec. 26-29 @ San Gabriel Tournament Dec 15-23 @ La Canada Tournament
Jan 2 @Burbank Dec. 26-30 @ Brea Olinda Tournament
Jan 3 Gabrielino Jan 5 @Warren
Jan 9 *Schurr Jan 9 @*San Gabriel
Jan 12 @*Bell Gardens Jan 12 *Mark Keppel
Jan 16 @*Montebello Jan 16 @*Alhambra
Jan 19 *Alhambra Jan 19 @*Bell Gardens
Jan 23 *Mark Keppel Jan 23 *Montebello
Jan 26 @*Schurr Jan 26 @*San Gabriel
Jan 30 *Bell Gardens Jan 30 @*Mark Keppel
Feb. 2 *Montebello Feb. 2 *Alhambra
Feb. 6 @*Alhambra Feb. 6 *Bell Gardens
Feb. 9 @*Mark Keppel Feb. 9 @*Montebello

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