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BOYS' BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK: A VIKING WHO IS ONE COOL CUSTOMER.

Byline: Gerry Gittelson

Staff Writer

James Johnson, Campbell Hall of North Hollywood's standout center, returned Wednesday after missing one basketball game and two days of school because of strep throat.

"I'm OK now," Johnson said.

Johnson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, is averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds.

For Saturday's 9 a.m. Div. III-AA championship against Price of Los Angeles, Johnson has been assigned the task of guarding Tyrese Bresheres, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound standout who has signed with Washington.

"I'm pretty physical. It's going to be a battle of the big guys," Johnson said.

Hey Jrue, who's your daddy?

Campbell Hall All-American prospect Jrue Holiday, who is averaging 25.9 points and is the area's third all-time leading scorer, is generally considered unstoppable one-on-one - and that includes his older brother, Justin, now a University of Washington freshman.

Unstoppable, that is, except for one person who often is in the gym: Holiday's father's Shawn, who starred at Blair of Pasadena in the early 1980s and has remained in top shape.

"Rumor is his dad is the only one who can beat Jrue," Campbell Hall coach Terry Kelly said.

Early risers

At last year's Southern Section championships at Honda Center, Campbell Hall played at 10:45 a.m., so the team stayed in a nearby hotel. This year, the Vikings play at 9 a.m., but they'll stay in the Valley -- and even participate in a 6 a.m. shootaround in their own gym before rushing off to Anaheim.

Meanwhile, after losing two coin flips that cost Campbell Hall home-court advantage the past two rounds, then losing another coin flip for the right to be the home team Saturday -- and wear its home jerseys -- Kelly openly wondered just how much of an advantage being the top seed has been this season.

"Plus, instead of the CIF putting third-seeded La Canada in the bottom bracket, they were in our bracket, so we played them in the semifinals instead of maybe Windward (of Los Angeles)," Kelly said. "I don't think it was fair we had to face the No. 3 seed in the semifinals."

Good 'till the end

Taft of Woodland Hills has won 11 of 13 playoff games over the past four seasons heading into Saturday's 8p.m. City Section final against Fairfax of Los Angeles at the Sports Arena. Of course, the Toreadors haven't won a playoff game since 2006 because they were bounced from playoff contention last year because of forfeits for ineligible players.

Eagle Rock seeking redemption

Eagle Rock (14-6), which plays University of West Los Angeles (21-12) at 11a.m. Saturday in the City Invitational championship at the Sports Arena, lost to University by 17 points Nov. 29 in the third game of the season. That was before a 33-day winter break. Since then, Eagle Rock has won 13 of 14 heading into the rematch.

"We were very inexperienced at that point, a lot more so than now," Eagle Rock coach Ron Kato said. "We've started to put things together toward the end of the season. I don't know the difference. We've just all come together."

Eagle Rock needs a big performance from its top player, Steven Phillips, whom Kato benched in the second half against University last time.

"He wasn't doing anything, so I benched him," Kato said. "I do that sometimes. I did the same thing to my point guard."

Kato, 61, is in his final season. This is the fifth season of his third stint at Eagle Rock. He's coached the team a total of 12 seasons.

Eagle Rock has reached a basketball final for the first time in the school's 81-year history.

This Knight player looks like a sir

Lamonte Dewindt, Knight's 6-foot, 220-pound forward, should be easy to spot in Saturday's 12:30 p.m. Div. II-A final on Saturday against Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley at the Honda Center.

"He's a Charles Barkley lookalike," Knight coach Tom Hegre said of Dewindt. "Everyone tells me he could have been a scholarship football player if they could have gotten him onto the football field."

gerry.gittelson@dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 29, 2008
Words:682
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