Los Angeles Preps: Austin Quick

Inland Empire: Boys basketball preview

December, 3, 2010
Top 10

1. Etiwanda – The Eagles return five of their top seven players from a team that lost by three points to Mater Dei in the Southern Section Division 1AA final. Byron Wesley, a 6-foot-5 small forward who has signed with USC, is one of the top players in the state. Running the point will be Jordan Daniels, undersized at 5-8 but a lightning-quick ball handler who is drawing interest from mid-major colleges.

2. Corona Centennial – The Huskies finished 25-5 last season, losing by six points to Etiwanda in a section quarterfinal. Dominique Dunning, a 6-4 wing who has signed with New Mexico, was the Big VIII League most valuable player last season and a first-team Division. I-AA selection. He’ll have plenty of support with the return of second-team senior guards Michael Caffey and Gelaun Wheelwright.

3. Murrieta Valley – The Nighthawks return their top three players from last season’s team that won the Division 2AA title. Justin Gudger, a 6-4 senior forward, averaged a team-high 17 points and six rebounds and was named the Division 2AA player of the year. Austin Quick, a 6-3 senior guard, averaged 14.1 points before missing the postseason with a knee injury, and 6-1 senior guard Mark Tarabilda averaged 8.1.

4. Redlands East Valley – The Wildcats return their top three scorers, leading rebounder and top two assist leaders from a team that finished 17-11 last season. Paulin Mpawe, a 6-9 senior center who signed with Pepperdine, averaged 9.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks while earning first-team all-Citrus Belt League honors. Another first-teamer, 5-11 senior guard Terrell Todd, averaged a team-high 16.7 points, and 5-7 senior guard Greg Dishman averaged 10.1 points and 3.9 assists.

5. UplandJohn Gilliam, a 6-2 senior guard, returns after leading the 21-9 Highlanders to the Division 1AA quarterfinals. He averaged a team-high 21.2 points last season, and was named the Baseline League co-most valuable player and a Division 1AA first-team selection. Myles Pearson, a 5-11 junior guard also returns. He averaged 9.7 points last season and a team-high 2.7 assists.

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Inland Empire: Popularity continues to swell with each Murrieta Valley victory

March, 10, 2010
They gather in the hallways between classes, share stories at lunchtime and fill their side of the gymnasium long before tip-off.

The Murrieta Valley boys’ basketball team is the main conversation on campus these days. The Nighthawks have swelled their fan base with a remarkable postseason, winning the program’s first Southern Section title in the Division 2AA game Saturday night at Honda Center, then putting away visiting Burbank on Tuesday in the first round of the Southern California Regional Division 2 playoffs.

"They’re coming out of the woodwork," Coach Steve Tarabilda said of the growing number of supporters. "You can’t walk across the quad without someone talking about basketball."

Against Burbank, the Murrieta Valley fans filled their side of the gymnasium an hour before game time, then occupied half of the visitor’s bleachers. They saw the third-seeded Nighthawks fall behind by nine points in the first half, then steady their defense and pull away for a 61-36 victory.

Overcoming adversity has been the mantra for Murrieta Valley this season. In the middle of Southwestern League play, the Nighthawks lost second-leading scorer Austin Quick for the season due to a torn hip muscle, then dropped three of their next five league games to miss out on the championship for the first time in three seasons.

"When Austin Quick went down, it put a damper on the mood," Tarabilda said. "I told the team, ‘Oh man, we have to snap out of this.’ "

Murrieta Valley has rebounded with tenacious defense and a never-quit attitude. The Nighthawks have trailed in the first half of each of their last four playoff games, but led when it counted.

Now it’s on to the second round Thursday, when the Nighthawks will host Pasadena, the Division 2A runner-up.

Tarabilda was still building a game plan for the Bulldogs late Wednesday morning, in between high fives from students and pats on the back from administrators.

Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Plan to arrive early.