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Monday, March 28, 2011
LA South: Boys' basketball top 10

By Blair Angulo

Here is the final, end-of-the-season edition of the boys' basketball top 10 rankings of teams from south Los Angeles County (with preseason ranking in parentheses):

1. (1) Long Beach Poly, (31-2) – The Jackrabbits managed to hang up a Southern Section banner but ran out of steam in the Southern California Regionals, falling to eventual state champion Mater Dei. Still, seniors Ryan Anderson, Alexis Moore and Alex Carmon have something to be proud of.

2. (3) La Verne Lutheran, (26-5) - Is there a better feel-good story in the state? The Trojans battled through adversity -- Xavier Jones' heart attack and the death of three people close to the program -- to win their second consecutive state championship. Fittingly, senior Kevin Payne, whose father died just prior to the season, was the hero in Sacramento.

3. (NR) L.A. Windward, (27-8) - The Wildcats made it to Anaheim for the sectional championships but couldn't finish the task. They redeemed themselves in the state tournament, capturing the Division IV title behind the play of Wesley Saunders and Nick Stover.

4. (5) Westchester, (27-8) – After nearly taking the City Section championship from Woodland Hills Taft at Galen Center, the Comets won a game in the Southern California Regionals before losing at Corona Centennial. The two-time defending state champions failed to repeat.

5. (2) Los Angeles Price, (23-8) – A disappointing finish on two fronts for this talented, high-flying squad. The Knights lost by three to La Canada in the sectional final at Anaheim Arena, then laid an egg in the regionals, losing in the second round to Inglewood. It was not the ending Norvel Pelle and Askia Booker had hoped for.

6. (NR) Gahr, (26-8) - This is feel-good story No. 2. The Gladiators won the CIF-SS Division 2A championship as the seventh-seeded team. It was an emotional night in Anaheim for coach Rickey Roper, whose wife had been diagnosed with a recurrence of leukemia in November and had not watched Gahr play until the title game.

7. (NR) Peninsula, (30-3) – A good season that could have gone great. The Bay League winners were favored for the Division 2A sectional title but stumbled at Mayfair before they could make the trip to Katella Avenue. More tough luck in the state tournament, as Peninsula received the 11th seed and fell at Fontana Summit, the eventual runner-up in Sacramento, by five points.

8. (8) Inglewood, (26-8) - Inglewood didn't necessarily underachieve, but it didn't overachieve either. They lost to North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake by just two points in the Division 3A championship. And then upset L.A. Price to get to the regional semis, where they were tripped up by top-seeded La Caņada.

9. (9) Damien, (26-4) – The omission of the Spartans from the Southern California Regionals was one of the biggest controversies. Many thought Damien had done enough to merit a selection -- they won three playoff games and lost, on the road, to highly regarded Harvard-Westlake by a mere three points. Coach Matt Dunn has a good thing going.

10. (NR) St. Bernard, (26-9) - Keep tabs on sophomore guard Brandon Randolph, who nearly led the Vikings to the Division V state championship. Coach Reggie Morris has this young squad heading in the right direction, saying, "We definitely will be one of the bigger programs in Southern California, not just on the Division V level but period. We want to stand up and be a powerhouse along those big-name schools."

Dropped out of the final regular-season rankings: No. 8 Montebello, No. 10 Compton.