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AOW: Lopez dominating competition on inside

January 30, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

When it comes to Imperial Valley high school boys basketball, many would not dispute that Calexico High's Diego Lopez is the best player in the area.

He's only played five games and is averaging a double-double at 16 points and 10 rebounds.

He missed the early part of the season to concentrate on preparing for the high school baseball season, but decided to return to the hardwood to get in better physical shape.

The 17-year-old senior is making a strong case for himself as a basketball player, scoring 30 points, pulling down 12 rebounds and dishing five assists in Calexico's 63-44 win over Southwest on Jan. 23. While his numbers weren't as impressive against Central Union on Friday, his 13 points helped give the Bulldogs a 64-57 win.

Lopez said he wasn't happy with his play against Central.

"I don't know what it was, I just wasn't feeling it," said Lopez. "I really wasn't too happy with that game, but now I know I have to work harder."

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Lopez said he doesn't go into games looking to score a set amount of points or pull down a specific number of rebounds. What he does do is just play.

Because there aren't many centers locally who can match up with his 6-foot-4 frame, he can dominate on the inside. Along with his 30-point outing last week, he scored 26 against Imperial on Jan. 19.

Before Lopez's arrival this year the Bulldogs main scorer was Rene Bucio, a deep threat. Lopez has added another dimension to the Bulldog arsenal.

"He's really fit in well to our plan," said Calexico coach Juan Rodriguez. "Diego's added another dimension to our team, so now, we can play an inside/outside game."

While the Bulldogs do have threats from behind the three-point arc, Lopez is their first option. In his first two games this season, however, he only averaged seven points because he was looking to pass before taking any shots.

Since then his teammates have urged him to turn to the basket whenever he gets his hands on the ball and look to score. The result has been a 23-point average in three games.

Lopez and the Bulldogs can prove their worth Friday in an Imperial Valley League showdown with Brawley Union High. The two met Jan. 19 with the Wildcats walking away with a 61-41 win. Lopez scored a season-low four points.

He can redeem himself Friday in Calexico's biggest game of its season.

"Whenever we're at practice and we're running (sprints) I just keep Brawley on my mind," said Lopez. "Everybody needs to step up because this is the biggest game of our season."

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