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ON THE ROAD AGAIN: SEEKING A HOME EVERY GAME'S AN AWAY GAME FOR THE HANDFUL OF SCHOOLS WITHOUT GYMS.

Byline: Sean Ceglinsky Staff Writer

It's easy to overlook the basketball programs at schools such as Coutin of Canoga Park, Cornerstone Christian of Camarillo and Delphi Academy of Lake View Terrace. They compete well out of the spotlight, in the Southern Section's smallest divisions - typically V-AA or V-A - and all make do without a gym to call their own.

``We're like gypsies,'' Valley Torah of Valley Village coach Doug Yocum said. ``We'll play anywhere they let us.''

Such as neighboring schools' gymnasiums or local parks and recreation centers - even outside on the asphalt - if need be. It's been the practice for years with these kinds of programs, some private institutions, others continuation schools, all with tiny enrollments and limited pedigree.

But it hasn't slowed the players' enthusiasm or kept some of them from finding success.

Valley Torah has won its past nine games, is 15-3 and No. 9 in the Daily News' Small Schools rankings. The team plays its home games at St. Genevieve High of Panorama City, a venue for which the Wolfpack is thankful after years struggling to find a suitable place for their games.

Practice is another story, and Valley Torah was able to do so just once this week because it has to play outdoors, usually during twilight hours, when the conditions are less than favorable.

``It can be frustrating at times,'' Yocum said. ``There's no locker rooms to change in or take showers afterward. We don't have the luxury of having a place to give pep talks before and after games. I hope the kids at a Harvard-Westlake (of Studio City) or a Notre Dame (of Sherman Oaks) don't take things for granted.''

Delphi Academy practices at the Verdugo Hills YMCA and plays its so-called home games at the Lake View Terrace Recreation Center, just two blocks from the school.

``It's similar to most parks and rec centers: one court, two baskets and a stage behind the hoop,'' Delphi Academy coach Beck Flanagan said. ``It's bare bones, pretty standard. We do have a shot clock, though.''

The circumstances haven't prevented the Dragons, currently No. 6 in Div. V-A, from qualifying for the postseason in each of the past five years. The program has an ongoing fundraising effort to build a gym on campus.

``I coach and these kids play for the love of the game,'' Flanagan said.

Skyward Christian of Tujunga, ranked No. 4 in Div. V-A, heads to the All Nations Korean Church in Lake View Terrace for most of its games.

Vasquez of Acton practices at nearby High Desert Middle School on a court only three-quarters the length of a regulation floor. The Mustangs play all their games on the road.

``It's a struggle, to be sure,'' Vasquez principal Martin Young said. ``We're doing what we have to do.''

San Fernando Valley Academy of Northridge is one of the few programs with a home-court advantage, of sorts. The Huskies' gym is poorly ventilated, all the windows are painted black, and the court is carpeted. Some coaches describe it is as ``a dungeon.''

Trinity Lutheran of Reseda and Westmark of Encino play on their campuses, but outside on a sports court - a plastic, weather-proofed surface - instead of the traditional wood flooring most high school players are accustomed to.

``We've played at some different places and gyms, ones where the rims clank and the floor is slippery,'' Valley Torah senior Simon Brookim said. ``But we're used to it. In a way, we enjoy it.

``We're thankful for what we have. If there's a hoop, we'll play. As long as you're happy with what you have, that's all that matters.''

Sean Ceglinsky, (818) 713-3607

sean.ceglinsky(at)dailynews.com

LEAGUE UPDATES

FOOTHILL

Hart of Newhall upset Burroughs of Burbank by a point Wednesday to move within a game of third place. The Indians handed first-place Valencia its only league loss, and they take on the Vikings again tonight with a chance to make yet another statement.

MISSION

Harvard-Westlake of Studio City's Alex Stepheson is averaging 24.8 points and 18.1 rebounds in his past five games, and on Monday he goes up against Chaminade of West Hills. In the first meeting, he scored 32 points and grabbed 21 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 senior, heading to North Carolina, has posted a double-double in 19 of 23 games.

OLYMPIC

Campbell Hall of North Hollywood's Robert Ford injured his ankle against Crossroads of Santa Monica a week ago, missed the Vikings' past two games and could be out the rest of the season. Coach Terry Kelly is holding out hope the junior point guard can return in time for the Southern Section playoffs.

WEST VALLEY

Tonight's game between third-place Granada Hills and fourth-place Birmingham of Lake Balboa carries major playoff implications. The winner will be positioned for a berth in the more prestigious City Championship bracket, and the loser likely will end up in the Invitational division. Pairings will be announced Feb. 11.

SUNSET SIX

Poly of Sun Valley and Grant of Van Nuys meet tonight for the second time in a week, and the first-place Parrots will clinch the league title with a victory. D.J. Gay hit the winning basket with less than 10 seconds to play to lift Poly in the last encounter.

VALLEY MISSION

Sylmar has won nine in a row, seven of them in league, heading into tonight's game against Kennedy of Granada Hills. The Spartans then take on Taft of Woodland Hills on Saturday in a nonleague showdown of two of the better San Fernando Valley City Section programs.

BIG MAN ON CAMPUS

Deno Anderson missed 10 games in December with a hip-flexor injury, and Highland of Palmdale struggled while he was out, losing five games without its lone-post presence.

The 6-foot-5 junior appears to be back at full strength, and the Bulldogs (14-10, 6-3) are back in Golden League hunt. They are tied for second with Quartz Hill (13-11, 6-3), a half-game behind Lancaster (14-9, 6-2) with three regular-season games to play.

``We rely on him,'' Highland coach Jeff Smith said. ``We need him in the lineup, taking 15 to 20 shots a night. He has no problem having the ball being in his hands.''

Anderson is shooting 53 percent from the field, averages a team-high 15.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and has led Highland in scoring in eight of 10 games since his return.

``Deno is a load underneath,'' Lancaster coach David Humphreys said. ``He has great timing and nose for the basket. He knows how to finish.''

The road down the stretch is favorable for Highland, which plays the rest of its games at home, beginning tonight against sixth-place Littlerock. Fifth-place Palmdale and first-place Lancaster visit next week.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, 7 boxes

Photo:

(1) Valley Torah of Valley Village, which has no on-campus gym, practices on asphalt in the school's parking lot.

(2) Valley Torah players compete during an outdoor practice on campus. The Wolfpack plays its home games at St. Genevieve High.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer

Box:

(1) THEY SAID IT

(2) SEVEN-DAY FORECAST

(3) DAILY NEWS' TOP 20

(4) SMALL SCHOOLS

(5) TOP 10 SCORES

(6) REBOUND LEADERS

(7) ASSIST LEADERS

By Sean Ceglinsky
COPYRIGHT 2006 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 3, 2006
Words:1202
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