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Role players accent standout scorers for California boys

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 11:06 p.m.
California's Tanner Huffman drives by Frazier's Paul Pellick during their January 22, 2013 contest in Perryopolis. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
California's Brian Fisher comes down with a rebound over Frazier's Vinny Bucci during their January 22, 2013 contest in Perryopolis. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

At California High School, two career 1,000-point scorers are the main attraction. That doesn't mean the rest of the team doesn't get involved.

Literally, everyone.

“All our guys get a lot of work in practice. We don't have anyone standing around,” said senior guard Tanner Huffman, one 1,000-point scorer and the team's leading scorer with an average of 23.2 points per game. “We don't use a starting five when we scrimmage. Most times, we mix the bench players in there with the starters and it works well for us.”

California (14-2, 9-0), ranked No. 5 in Class AA of the WPIAL, enters Friday night's home game against Bentworth leading Section 5-AA by just a game over Charleroi.

Huffman and senior guard/forward Brian Fisher (17.9 ppg.), the other 1,000-point scorer for the Trojans, appear to be aiming at keeping the team in control, despite the slim lead.

“Our two big guns are giving us what we expected them to give us,” veteran California coach Phil Pergola said. “But what's really helped us is the support that they're getting. Nobody off our bench has hurt us in a game yet. It's been a team effort even though our two guys have gotten the publicity for our success.”

Huffman, who said he's visited Division III Washington & Jefferson with an eye as an English major, credits California's success in part to the chemistry the team has developed.

“Some of us have been playing in AAU programs since fifth and sixth grades,” he said. “Mainly we played for teams based in Fayette County, but we've also played in Pittsburgh. It's been a blast.”

California has been aligned in three sections during Huffman's four seasons at the school. It's offered a chance to play against various styles.

Playing for the much-traveled Pergola also has been a treat for Huffman and his teammates.

“He's like a second father to me,” Huffman said.

At 66, Pergola appears to be going strong. He has a combined record of 575-471 at four WPIAL schools, winning WPIAL and PIAA championships at Ringgold.

His 2007 team at California played in the school's only WPIAL title game.

“Our goal always is to win a section title,” he said. “We're in good position to make a run at it this year.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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