Boys Basketball Battle for Foothill Title
December, 2013 - Issue #110
"It makes for another competitive battle,
The Foothill League lost two of its best boys basketball players in the last decade (at least) to graduation in West Ranch guard and Foothill League Player of the Year Kevin Harris and league first-team center and fellow Wildcat Ako Kaluna.

The ripple effect will be seen in a number of ways. The obvious being these two departures have paved the way for Hart's talented team to become the Foothill League favorite.

However, it also produced an "evening out" of the Foothill League that makes for another competitive battle from top to bottom. These are the contenders:

Courtesy of Shutterstock
Courtesy of Shutterstock
West Ranch (Last season: 21-7 overall,
9-1 in the Foothill League)

Before we close the door on the two-time defending league champions, West Ranch will do everything in its power to continue its recent run of success.

The reins now go to gritty point guard Ryan Beddeo. He may have the best addition to any team: guard Christian Ware-Berry. Ware-Berry is a senior transfer from Providence High (Burbank) who was an All-CIF player last year.

Now that Harris has a replacement, 6-foot-10-inch Ryne Williams will step in for Kaluna in the front court.

Last year's senior-laden team is no more, which creates opportunities for others who weren't varsity guys last year, like guard Alec Rodriguez and power forward Isaiah Doyle.

The Wildcats will be tested once again in tough preleague tournaments, so they should be big-game ready come league play.

Hart (Last season: 25-3,
8-2 in the Foothill League)

The Indians were a win away from claiming part of the Foothill title last year. A talented, deep team this year makes it the favorite this time around, especially considering the fact that the JV and Freshman teams cruised to league titles last year and have sent some of their talent to the varsity.

There is no denying that senior Lewis Stallworth and Myles Franklin, both player of the year candidates, make up the best backcourt in the Santa Clarita Valley. The surrounding cast is very good, too.

Guards Frank Lonsinger and Chase White give the Indians the ability to amp up the defense because they can share minutes with the big two. Andrew MacArthur and Davis Koppenhaver can shoot and defend in the front court and they'll have a giant in the center in newcomer and junior D.B. Gibbs.

Valencia (Last season: 17-9,
5-5 in the Foothill League)

The Valencia Vikings contended early on last year in league play, then slipped late. This team might last longer.

The Vikings have a strong mix of players who earned some valuable experience last season. Guards Angel Cardenas, who is a threat from beyond the 3-point line; explosive Jaleel Howard and long-armed Malik McCowan will make Valencia a difficult team to defend.

Valencia has some size - volleyball star Kyle Ensing will contribute as will Dakota Abbot and James Burrill. All are newcomers. Senior guard Meelad Ibrahim, a transfer from the Chicago area, will also turn some heads.

Valencia head coach Rocket Collins said another thing going for this squad is it came together quicker than most teams he has had.

Canyon (Last season: 14-13,
4-6 in the Foothill League)

The Cowboys should be a better team in 2013. Of the utmost significance is senior forward/center Dean Hendrix-Davis will be healthy. Last December, a car accident robbed the Cowboys of his ability. With him healthy, Canyon is a dangerous inside-outside force with guards Ben Taufahema, Marc Cabrera and Mark Bell making it difficult for opponents in the backcourt.

New addition junior Jarom Sims gives the Cowboys the ability to make Hendrix-Davis - a tough scorer, defender and rebounder -
more versatile.

Saugus (Last season: 14-14,
4-6 in the Foothill League)

Head coach Derek Ballard thinks this might be his best shot at a league title in his six years at the helm.

Guard Jacob Tobon and forward Amir Mirtabatabaie are the top returners and both were key players for last year's Saugus team.

The new guys help breathe new life into the Centurions. Caleb Grisanti, a 6-foot-6-inch junior, is a double-double player in the making. A crew of other juniors will also give Saugus some strength in guards Adrian Arguello, Pat Selva and Connor Vaziri.

Golden Valley (Last season: 5-21,
0-10 in the Foothill League)

The Grizzlies have their fourth head coach this decade in first-year man Dan Alon, who said his team has bought into a defensive approach.

The team thought it would be led by guard Dominic Gully, but he has left the SCV.

Now holdovers like center Jordan Watkins and Tristan Peralta will have to carry a lot of the load.

There is some promise, though, and a lot of opportunity in the program. A familiar name that could help the next couple of years is Hunter Statham, whose brother Taylor Statham helped lead the Grizzlies to a Foothill title in 2010. Some other names you'll hear are Isai Jimenez and Derek Schlossman, who figure to contribute this season as well.
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