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BIG TIME TOURNAMENT: BELMONT SHORE NEARLY CORRALS MUSTANGS.

Byline: Vincent Bonsignore Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS - There's an unmistakable swagger about the Michigan Mustangs travel basketball team. Even among the best prep club teams in America competing in the Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas this week, the Mustangs stand out.

This team is loaded, boasting some of the top prep players in the country, including Flint (Mich.) guard Kelvin Torbert, generally regarded as the best player of all.

Long Beach-based Belmont Shore may not have the same swagger as the Mustangs, but it obviously wasn't intimidated Sunday, taking Michigan to the limit in a surprisingly tough 90-87 pool-play loss.

Belmont Shore, which includes Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks guard Cody Pearson and Redondo Beach Redondo Union guard Dijon Thompson, had three chances to go ahead with under a minute to play, but poor shot selection and two turnovers derailed the upset bid.

Still, Pearson and Thompson earned a measure of respect, even in the loss.

``You can't let down anyone, no matter who you play,'' Pearson. ``You have to play hard all the time, that's the way I feel.

``A lot of people are scared of them and there was a lot of hype. But we're some of the best players in our area and we're not afraid of anyone.''

Belmont Shore, which went 2-1 this weekend in pool play, opens bracket play today. The tournament, which is comprised of 312 teams, concludes on Wednesday.

The showcase event brings together most of the best players in the country with college coaches filling the stands to evaluate the talent. Coach can watch but not talk to players.

For all the bravado and pregame hype that Michigan would walk over Belmont Shore, the Mustangs never had control until the closing moments.

--Local flavor: The LA Rockfish Marlins, which includes Crescenta Valley guards Jimmy Goffredo and Chris Tarne, dropped to 1-1 after losing 67-54 to the Toledo Players (Ohio). Chatsworth-based Pump and Run barely escaped an upset with a 89-88 victory over Municipal Gardens (Ind.). Pump and Run is now 2-0. The other Chatsworth-based Double Pump team, which has Crespi of Encino's Andrew Moore and Simi Valley's Dustin Villapigue, is 1-2 after losing 65-55 to the Houston Superstars.

--Where to go: Pearson is getting interest from Utah, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Fullerton and Rutgers, among others.

``Things are going all right (this summer),'' Pearson said. ``I'm not the biggest recruit and there aren't any major (Division I) schools but definitely Division I schools and that's OK with me.''
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 17, 2000
Words:418
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