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December 17, 2010

Top teams from around the country square off in CA

The National Prep Classic features 54 games played at two separate sites in Santa Maria. The tournament's best games will be played at Allan Hancock College, with the National bracket starting play on Saturday. The National Division includes defending Division I state champion Westchester, Division III champion Gardena Serra and several top teams from around California and other states.

The highlight of Saturday's schedule is the National Division game between Long Beach Poly and San Diego Hoover. The two teams enter the tournament with unblemished records. The Jackrabbits won the Redondo Pacific Shores Tournament earlier this month; they are led by 6-foot-9 Boston College commit Ryan Anderson and top sophomore Roschon Prince. Hoover won the Titan Tip-Off Classic and counters with Angelo Chol, who is averaging 25.5 points and 10.2 blocks per game. The battle in the post between Anderson and Chol is one of the best of the early season. The winner will advance to face Eastvale Roosevelt or Maryland's Our Lady of Good Counsel in Monday's quarterfinal.

The first game of the National Division tournament features Del Rey League power Bishop Montgomery and Clovis Buchanan. Bishop Montgomery is led by 6-foot-3 senior wing Tyler Harvey, who was All-CIF Division 3AA as a junior. The Knights have a rising star in sophomore guard Lamond Murray, Jr., whose namesake father played at Cal before spending 11 seasons in the NBA (five with the Clippers). Buchanan guard Alex Fertig scored 32 points in last week's overtime loss to De La Salle. The Bears reached the Central Section Division I title game last season and with Fertig, they should be a factor in the section this season.

The winner of the above game could face Gardena Serra in the quarterfinals, if the Cavaliers defeat Texas's Prestonwood Christian. The Cavaliers lost four starters from last year's state title team and will be short-handed, with several key players still active with the football team, which plays in the Division II state title game on Saturday. 6-foot-9 center Ronnie Stevens, who signed with Hawaii last month, is the focal point for the Cavaliers.

Westchester received a bye to the National Division quarterfinals and will play tournament host St. Joseph in an exhibition game on Saturday. The Comets are rebuilding after losing five starters from last year's squad but remain solid behind 6-foot-6 forward Robert Gsellman and Keywhon Powns, who saw limited action as a reserve last season. The Comets will face Dorsey or Texas's Christian Life Center in on Monday. Christian Life Center has numerous Division I prospects on their roster, led by Texas Tech-bound forward Hershey Robinson.

Rhode Island power St. Andrew's waits in the semifinals for Westchester, if the Comets make it that far. Michael Carter-Williams, a Syracuse signee and the No. 3 point guard in the Class of 2011, leads the Saints.

Being the host of the tournament has its advantages, as St. Joseph shows. Head coach Tom Mott's squad will play non-tournament games against Hoover and Westchester on Friday and Saturday before playing in the Prep Division's quarterfinal on Monday. The Knights are a balanced team with four players scoring in double figures. Their likely quarterfinal opponent is LACES, the defending City Section Small Schools champion. The Unicorns face Pebble Beach Stevenson in Saturday's first game of the Prep Division.

Beverly Hills may be the top team in the Prep bracket, led by 6-foot-1 junior guard Austin Mills, who is averaging 19 points per game. The Normans open against Arroyo Grande. The Prep bracket also includes El Modena, Pioneer Valley, Pacific Hills, Newbury Park, Community Charter, Hanford, Birmingham, Rio Americano and Healdsburg. Most of the Prep bracket's games are played at St. Joseph but the semifinals and championship game will be at Allan Hancock.

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