2016-11-18 / Sports

Fast break fury

Simi Valley, Royal, Grace Brethren battle in boys’ basketball circuit
By Jonathan Andrade


IN YOUR FACE—Simi Valley High senior point guard Bryant Farmer battles for a rebound during boys’ basketball practice on Wednesday. The Pioneers’ regular season starts Nov. 21 at Chaminade. 
Photos by ROB VARELA/Acorn Newspapers IN YOUR FACE—Simi Valley High senior point guard Bryant Farmer battles for a rebound during boys’ basketball practice on Wednesday. The Pioneers’ regular season starts Nov. 21 at Chaminade. Photos by ROB VARELA/Acorn Newspapers All eyes are on the Eagles.

Oak Park High’s boys’ basketball team hasn’t lost a Coastal Canyon League game in the first two years of the league’s existence. The Eagles return the heart of their lineup with juniors Riley Battin and Wes Slajchert.

Camarillo hopes to knock the Eagles off their perch while simultaneously fending off teams at Moorpark, Royal and Simi Valley.

“Our league is always competitive, which is what I love about it,” Camarillo head coach Michaeltore Smith said. “Our goal is not to shoot for second or third. It’s always about shooting for the top. We know who we have to beat to get there.”

Grace Brethren, with first-year head coach Jules Griggs at the helm, will battle in the Frontier League.


DOING WORK—Simi Valley’s Jacob Grebeta works on his shot during a recent practice. Grebeta is a senior small forward for the Pioneers. DOING WORK—Simi Valley’s Jacob Grebeta works on his shot during a recent practice. Grebeta is a senior small forward for the Pioneers. Here’s a closer look at the teams:

ROYAL HIGHLANDERS

Head coach

• Craig Griffin (13th season)

Last year’s record

• 14-15 overall, 2-6 in the Coastal

Canyon, League, CIF-SS Division 2A second round

Projected starters
• Jacob Magdaleno, C, senior
• Brian Busco, PF, senior
• Tim Andreolli, SF, junior
• Ashton Arnold, G, senior
• Anthony Goring, PG, senior

Bench mob
• Shane Antrum
• Tyler Mitchell
• Anthony Delgado
• Paul Horton
• Pierce Barker
3-point sharpshooters
• Ashton Arnold
• Anthony Goring
Defensive stopper
• Tim Andreolli
Top newcomer
• Pierce Barker


LOOKING AHEAD—Royal players watch the action unfold during practice on Wednesday. LOOKING AHEAD—Royal players watch the action unfold during practice on Wednesday. Overview

The Highlanders have all the pieces to compete.

“I think we have a good mix of inside and outside players, guys that can do different things well,” Griffin said. “They’re working to play to their strengths.”

Royal features two experienced operators, Goring and Arnold, in the backcourt.

Goring, a 6-foot-1 point guard, handles the ball with confidence. The senior, who can also lock down opposing team’s top scorers, had a breakout junior season, including an 18-point performance against rival Simi Valley on Jan. 15.


SURVEY THE COURT—Shane Antrum, left, and Ashton Arnold train together during Royal High boys’ basketball practice on Nov. 16. Both players will have to step up into bigger roles this season. 
Photos by ROB VARELA/Acorn Newspapers SURVEY THE COURT—Shane Antrum, left, and Ashton Arnold train together during Royal High boys’ basketball practice on Nov. 16. Both players will have to step up into bigger roles this season. Photos by ROB VARELA/Acorn Newspapers Arnold, a 6-foot guard, will look to play a bigger role on offense after averaging 8.1 points per game last season.

Andreolli, a rebounding machine, can also do some damage on offense with his sweet stroke. The 6-foot-6 forward isn’t afraid to let shots fly from 3-point land.

Antrum, a senior, is a versatile athlete who can step in at numerous positions off the bench.

Barker, a backup junior point guard who impressed coaches during offseason workouts, is only one of the talented newcomers to come up from the junior varsity squad.


DRIBBLE—Anthony Goring is a senior guard for the Highlanders. DRIBBLE—Anthony Goring is a senior guard for the Highlanders. “They’ve shown the potential to do great things,” Griffin said of the newcomers. “There’s a lot of fight and grit in them. I’m looking forward to seeing guys surprise teams that aren’t really expecting much from us.”

Royal’s season begins at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 21 against Heritage Christian at Calabasas in the West Valley tournament.

SIMI VALLEY PIONEERS

Head coach

• Ryan Bradshaw (fourth season)

Last year’s record

• 14-13 overall, 3-5 in the Coastal Canyon, Division 2A first round

Projected starters


DENY ENTRY—Simi Valley’s Justin Campbell, right, is expected to be one of the top newcomers in the Coastal Canyon League this season. DENY ENTRY—Simi Valley’s Justin Campbell, right, is expected to be one of the top newcomers in the Coastal Canyon League this season. • Bryant Farmer, PG, senior
• Kyle Fisher, SG, senior
• Justin Campbell, C, sophomore
• Max Edwards, PF, junior
• Jacob Grebeta, SF, senior
Bench mob
• Isaac Dominguez
• Nick Battung
• Jacob Smalling
• Nick Fanderlick
3-point sharpshooters
• Max Edwards
• Kyle Fisher
Defensive stoppers
• Jacob Smalling
• Nick Battung
Top newcomer
• Justin Campbell

Overview

Simi Valley has a horde of new faces in the varsity lineup.

“We lost a lot of seniors so some new guys get to pop in,” Bradshaw said. “It gives them their opportunity to shine.”

Campbell, a sophomore known most for his pitching prowess on the baseball field, is also a talented basketball player. The 6-foot-7 center earned team MVP honors for the junior varsity squad last year by leading the Pioneers in points, rebounds and assists.

Fisher shifts to shooting guard, which the coach called his natural position, after suiting up at point guard the past two seasons.

Farmer will direct the offense at point guard. The senior, who transferred from Chatsworth before his junior year, earned the starting role late last year after his sit-out period.

Bradshaw said he expects big things from Grebeta, a third-year varsity player, at small forward this year.

“He can play inside and outside,” the coach said of Grebeta. “He rebounds well, shoots well and finishes well around the rim.”

Simi Valley faces El Camino Real at 6:30 p.m. at Chaminade on Nov. 21 in the West Valley tournament.

Bradshaw knows what it’ll take to have success on the court this year.

“We want to be great defensively. We want to take great shots. And we want to win the hustle plays,” he said. “Hopefully, everything falls into place.”

GRACE BRETHREN LANCERS

Head coach

• Jules Griggs (first season)

Last year’s record

• 12-11 overall, 8-4 in the Frontier

League, Division 5AA first round

Projected starters
• Jack Jankowski, C, senior
• Setefano Aina, F, senior
• Andrew Bishay, G, junior
• Canaan Chandler, G, senior
• Kent Carpenter, PG, junior
Bench mob
• Joseph Griggs
• Jauqine Johnson
• Luke Cameron
3-point sharpshooter
• Andrew Bishay
Defensive stopper
• Canaan Chandler
Top newcomer
• Luke Cameron

Overview

Griggs, a first-year head coach, has big plans for the Lancers.

“My goal is to do for Grace Brethren basketball what coach Josh Henderson and his valuable staff have done for the Grace Brethren football program,” Griggs said. “The key is to bring a high level of intensity to the team.”

That started with intense conditioning during the offseason training program.

“We want to run,” Griggs said. “We’re going to be a running, shooting, defensive, 3-point-shooting team. We’re going to be pushing.”

Grace Brethren’s only varsity returner is Jankowski, a 6-foot-4, four-year varsity post player.

The roster received a boost from the school’s football players.

Chandler, a 5-foot-9 guard; Aina (6-foot-3, 315 pounds) and Johnson (6-foot-2, 165 pounds) exchanged their cleats for sneakers. Johnson is a junior guard.

Chandler, one of the football team’s most explosive players with 14 total touchdowns, is a key addition.

“According to (Chandler), basketball is his best sport,” Griggs said.

Grace Brethren also welcomes Cameron, a transfer from Trinity Pacific Christian. He’ll be available in early January.

Carpenter and Bishay, both juniors, solidify the backcourt.

The Lancers open the season at 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at Hueneme.

OAK PARK EAGLES

Head coach

• Aaron Shaw (eighth season)

Last year’s record

• 28- 7 overall, 8-0 in the Coastal Canyon, Division 3AA champions, Division III state

regional semifinals

Projected starters
• Riley Battin, PF, junior
• Wes Slajchert, PG, junior
• Clark Slajchert, SG, freshman
• Ezekiel Richards, C, junior
• Ethan Alkoby, G/F, senior
Bench mob
• Chris Stone
• Zach Sherin
• Itay Dvir
• Zachary Songco
• Jack Zhao
• Josh Jeong
• Connor Vlassis
3-point sharpshooter
• Wes Slajchert
Defensive stopper
• Ezekiel Richards
Top newcomer
• Clark Slajchert

Overview

The Eagles are arguably the best team in Ventura County.

They’re now going to have to slug it out with other Division 1AA powerhouses, including Calabasas, Chino Hills and Sierra Canyon, one of the best teams in the U.S.

“We have to be ready to go,” Shaw said.

Battin remains the most imposing basketball player in the area. He’s a 6-foot-10 wunderkind who shed 25 pounds (he’s playing at a brisker 230 pounds). That’s bad news for everyone else.

“He’s going to be more athletic. He’s jumping higher, running faster,” the coach said of Battin. “He’s more agile, and he moves quicker.”

Battin now has help in the paint.

Richards, a 6-foot-11 junior, patrols center. Richards, who grew up playing lacrosse, will protect the rim, rebound, set screens and block any shot that ventures too close to his solar system.

“He’s grown,” the coach said of the center. “He’s gotten better.”

Battin and Richards are surrounded by a plethora of perimeter shooters.

Wes Slajchert will start for the third straight year at point guard. He’s a deadly perimeter shooter who does little things well, including playing smart, tough defense. This season, his younger brother Clark joins him in the backcourt. Clark Slajchert is a crafty combo guard who excels driving to the basket and shaking defenders for nifty midrange shots.

Alkoby and Stone, both seniors, are strong outside shooters who play tough defense.

Oak Park hopes to get Sherin, a senior cross country runner, back on the hardwood soon. Dvir (volleyball), Jeong (volleyball) and Vlassis (football) are the other multisport athletes on the roster.

The Eagles can score in flurries. They need to do two things well, however, if they want to play deep into March.

“We have to defend and we have to rebound,” Shaw said. “There is going to be some figuring out how we’re going to play and what roles are going to be established. It will be interesting.”

MOORPARK MUSKETEERS

Head coach

• Blake Jenkins (first season)

Last year’s record

• 12-16 overall, 1-7 in the Coastal Canyon, Division

3AA first round

Projected starters
• Jeffrey Yows, C, junior
• Matthew Aung, SF, junior
• Drake London, G, sophomore
• Aaron Mercado, SG, senior
• Devin Rodriguez, PG, senior
Bench mob
• Matthew Johnson
• Shareef Hijaz
• Billy Westerling
• Isaiah Hogan
• Tyler Roehr
3-point sharpshooter
• Matthew Johnson
Defensive stopper
• Devin Rodriguez
Top newcomer
• Matthew Aung

Overview

Jenkins, a first-year head coach who assisted the varsity team last season, inherits a squad with only two returners: Yows, an athletic 6-foot-7 center, and Mercado, a 5-foot-10 guard.

Both players earned ample playing time last season. They’ll be expected to shoulder a heavier load this winter.

While the Musketeers lack varsity experience, Jenkins said his team steadily improved throughout the offseason.

“The kids are really buying into the new culture and how we’re doing things here,” he said. “We’re going to compete. We take pride in the things we can control: energy, effort, turnovers, rebounds and free throws.”

Moorpark, which opens the season on the road against Chaminade at 8 p.m. Nov. 21 in the West Valley Thanksgiving Tip-Off Classic, boasts a defense-first mentality, but it also has weapons on offense.

Johnson is lethal from beyond the arc.

London, who plays wide receiver for the football team, is a lanky 6-foot-2 guard who can attack the rim and nail open jumpers.

Westerling brings his physicality from the football field to the post. Hogan, also a football player, is an up-and-coming guard to watch.

“We have to build our rotations,” the coach said. “We have to see how guys play together. Everyone wants to be a starter, but our lineup can change by how well they’re doing in practice.”

CAMARILLO SCORPIONS

Head coach

• Michaeltore Smith (third season)

Last year’s record

• 25-7 overall, 6-2 in the Coastal Canyon League, CIFSS Division 1A playoff semifinals

Projected starters
• Peter West, F, junior
• Jaime Jaquez Jr., G/F, sophomore

• Jonah Cottrell, G/F, senior
• Brandon Adair, SG, senior
• Justin Nguyen, PG, senior
Bench mob
• Dylan Palmer
• Isaiah Lopez
• Kyle Horton
• Mark Bolo
• Carter Alexander
3-point sharpshooter
• Brandon Adair
Defensive stopper
• Jonah Cottrell
Top newcomers
• Mark Bolo
• Carter Alexander

Overview

Camarillo returns many key pieces from last year’s squad that reached the Division 1A semifinals.

“We miss some of the leadership,” Smith said, “but we have some three-year varsity guys that have taken their lumps. It’s paid off. Our guys are older and experienced.”

The talented backcourt of Adair and Nguyen, along with Cottrell, who spent the fall on the football field, are vocal senior leaders on the hardwood.

Jaquez, who spent a portion of the offseason honing his skills at USA Basketball Junior National Team camp, will once again be the Scorpions’ go-to guy. The 6-foot- 6 sophomore averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals per game as a freshman.

West is a scrappy first-year varsity player who is expected to join the starting rotation. The 6-foot-2 junior averaged 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last year on the junior varsity squad.

Talented youngsters Bolo, a sophomore, and Alexander, a freshman, give the Scorpions explosiveness off the bench. Bolo averaged 16 points per game as a rookie on JV last winter.

“We’ll be smaller than we were last year,” Smith said, “but our guard play is going to be much better.”

Eliav Appelbaum contributed to this story.

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