Inland Empire:
Etiwanda has history on its side

Dave Kleckner is old-school when it comes to teaching boys' basketball. As coach at Etiwanda High in Rancho Cucamonga, he stresses defensive fundamentals, such as proper stance, footwork and side-to-side movement.

His philosophy might not lend itself to up-tempo, high-scoring, above-the-rim style of play, but it gets the job done. Heading into the Southern California Regional Division I first-round game Tuesday night against visiting El Camino of Oceanside, his teams are 183-40 since the coming-out 2003-04 season, reaching four Southern Section finals in that span.

His defense-minded coaching style also provides a solid base that benefits his players at the next level and, in a couple cases, the level after that.

Two of his star players from the 2003-04 season, point guard Darren Collison and center Jeff Pendergraph, now play in the NBA. By comparison, there's only one player on a current NBA roster who played high school basketball in Orange County, Austin Daye of the Detroit Pistons, who played at Woodbridge High in Irvine.

It was Collison, Pendergraph and a strong supporting cast that put the Eagles on the map after a successful run at the season-opening Tournament of Champions at Ocean View High in December 2003.

Just juniors at the time, Collison and Pendergraph went on to lead Etiwanda to the Southern Section Division 1A final, losing to Long Beach Poly. However, the Eagles rebounded in the Southern California Regionals and posted one of the biggest upsets of the season, knocking off top-seeded Taft of Woodland Hills and point guard Jordan Farmar in a semifinal.

Kleckner has the Eagles poised for a similar run. They lost by three points to Mater Dei in the Division I-AA final Saturday night. Mater Dei is seeded No. 1 in the regionals, Etiwanda is No. 3.

"Just like in 2004, our core guys this year are juniors," Kleckner said. "Our goal is to bounce back. I think we proved we're capable of playing with anybody."