Prep Boys Basketball: Poway High, Rancho Bernardo have new looks; Del Norte has league title hopes
By Michael Bower
The Palomar League is loaded with new faces across the board.
The only underclassmen returning from the All-Palomar League teams is Poway High guard Derek Babiash.
Rancho Bernardo lost its leading scorers Richie Orlins, Michael Pierick and Shane Brown. The Broncos return just three players — no starters.
That means the race to the league title is as wide open as it has been in some time, although, Torrey Pines is considered the favorite by many.
“There really is no outright No. 1 team,” Titans coach Aaron Little said. “There are a lot of new faces in the league. Last year, the league was incredibly senior heavy. I think it will be pretty wide open this season. I like to believe that we will be in the mix for a league title, but it definitely is a mystery this year.”
Del Norte has plenty of familiar faces over in the Valley League. The squad returns a majority of its roster and expects to compete for a league title.
Maranatha Christian will be playing its first season in the Pacific League.
Here is a closer look at each local team:
COACH: Aaron Little, 7th year
2012 RECORD: 19-11, eliminated in first round of Division I playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: PG, Tom Erb, Jr.; G, Derek Babiash, Sr.; G, Brandon Dumas, Sr.; G, Tyler Green, Jr.; C, Dalton Soffer, Soph.
OUTLOOK: Opponents can throw out those scouting tapes from a season ago because the Titans have a completely new look this season. After the graduation of 6-foot-10 Sam Beeler, who earned a scholarship to UC Santa Barbara, Poway’s offense will have to take a different approach.
A smaller and less experienced lineup could lead to some early struggles for Poway, but Little is hoping the team can mesh by the start of the new year.
“We are going to be a work in progress,” Little said. “A lot of new faces and guys trying to learn how hard it is to win at the varsity level, but I think we have a lot of upside. We are going to be completely different from last year. At times, we could have five guards on the floor at once.”
That usually translates into an up-tempo offense and pressure, trapping defense. But that will depend on how quick the inexperienced players can adjust to the varsity level. One guy returning with starting varsity experience is point guard Erb. He should be the floor leader out there along with Babiash, the only All-Palomar League player returning from the entire league.
The Titans do not have the one dominating player so the leading scorer could change from game-to-game.
“We will not have that 20-25 point guy,” Little said. “We are hoping to have several 10-12 point guys. I like it that way because if one guy has an off night, other guys can step up.”
COACH: Jim Choe, 5th year
2012 RECORD: 12-17, eliminated in first round of Division I playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: F, Bryan Zhu, Sr.; C, Stephen Marrone, Sr.; G, Lorenzo Mata, Sr.; F, Michael Searson, Jr.; F, Dillon Wirkus, Jr.; G, Elijah Brown, Jr.
OUTLOOK: The Broncos return no starters and just three players overall.
The entire 14-man roster will see lots of minutes, as the Broncos should have a strong blend of shooters and post players.
Seniors Zhu, Marrone and Mata figure to lead the way with Searson, the quarterback of the football team, Wirkus and Brown providing plenty of help.
Rancho Bernardo could start slow as it tries to break in its newcomers. If the young guys can gain confidence, a late-season run is not out of the question.
COACH: Bob Spahn, 4th year
2012 RECORD: 12-16, eliminated in first round of Division III playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: G/F, Austin Clyde, Jr.; C, Alex Bulkin, Jr.; F, Tyler Colt, Sr.; PG, Chad Wetzel, Sr.; G, Bradley Neas, Sr.
OUTLOOK: Spahn says he is more excited about this year than any other one and he has good reason to be.
The Nighthawks have physically gotten bigger, and with only one starter lost from last season, the expectations are to be at least a .500 team for the first time in the three-year program history.
“Our experience is better and all-around mentally and physically we have grown a ton,” Spahn said. “We have made leaps and bounds over the year.”
Wetzel will run the offense, but is not afraid to mix it up inside. He could even end up leading the team in rebounding from the point guard position.
Clyde and Kyle Sit figure to be the top outside shooters, while 6-foot-5 Bulkin will be in the paint.
The Nighthawks love to run and score points in transition, using a smothering defense to create turnovers.
“Our attitude this year is our best offense is our defense,” Spahn said. “We are going to try to get up and down the court. We hope we don’t have to run a lot of half-court sets. We want transition buckets.”
Del Norte finished in third place in the Valley League last season, but should challenge for its first league title in school history.
With the exit of Canyon Crest Academy to the Palomar League, the fight for the Valley League title should be between the Nighthawks, defending champion Valley Center and Oceanside.
COACH: Brooks Barnhard, 2nd year
2012 RECORD: 17-6, eliminated in first round of Division V playoffs.
KEY PLAYERS: G, Metro Henning, Soph.; C, Gray Rohde, Sr.; F, Jeremy Tejada, Sr.; G, Corey Adkins, Soph.; G, Chance Lamont, Jr.
OUTLOOK: The Eagles return leading scorer Tejada. He along with Henning, Lamont, Adkins and Rohde should provide Maranatha with experience and plenty of scorers. The Eagles, which have a nine-player roster, were eliminated in the first round of the Division V playoffs last season and hope to make a deeper run this year.
“We have pretty much the same team as last year,” Barnhard said. “I think we have a chance to be top-10 in Division V.”
This will be the first year Maranatha plays in the Pacific League, where Division V runner-up Rock Academy resides. Calvin Christian and Tri-City Christian are also strong teams within the Pacific League.
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