Last season's Century League basketball champion, Santa Ana High School, meets this season's favorite, Foothill, tonight at 7:30 at Foothill as conference play gets under way around Orange County.
Santa Ana (5-5), which starts two sophomores and a junior, is not favored to repeat as champion, but a strong showing tonight could go a long way to help the team's confidence as it opens play against an experienced Foothill (9-3) squad.
"You've got to play them sometime, so it may as well be the first game," Saints Coach Greg Coombs said. "If we win, we'll be tied for first and if we lose, we'll be tied for second (place). That's the way you have to look at it. The best part is that we won't have to play there (at Foothill) again afterward."
As expected, the Saints have been led by 6-foot 5-inch senior center Roger Flores, who is averaging 18 points per game.
Coombs claims, however, that his younger players are developing fast, which should take some of the pressure off Flores.
The sophomores starting for Coombs are Jeff Stewart, a 6-2 forward and Darrell Bailey, a 6-foot guard. Along with 6-4 junior forward Eric Turner, they have helped to pick up some of the scoring slack among the Saints.
"We're not a great scoring machine by any means," Coombs noted. "We still have to play real strong defense if we hope to win. We should get stronger as the season progresses. At least I hope so."
In other Century League action: Santa Ana Valley at Villa Park; Orange at Canyon; El Modena at Tustin.
Esperanza (5-5) at El Dorado (12-1)--The Aztecs have been the early surprise in the Empire League after going 1-19 last season, but they will likely come back to earth against Bart Hakeman, Jim Sammon and the rest of the balanced, high-scoring Golden Hawks.
In other Empire League action: Los Alamitos at Kennedy; Pacifica at Cypress; Katella at Loara.
SEA VIEW LEAGUE
Estancia (13-1) at Corona del Mar (8-4)--The defending league-champion Eagles waste little time in finding out if they are as good as their record indicates when they meet Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor this week. First, they must win tonight in the Sea Kings' gym, never an easy task, but the Sea Kings are coming off a 70-53 thrashing from Newport Harbor.
In other Sea View League action: University at Newport Harbor; Laguna Beach at Costa Mesa; Woodbridge at Saddleback.
SOUTH COAST LEAGUE
Mission Viejo (11-3) at Dana Hills (8-2)--The two early favorites in the South Coast League meet in this game, pitting the balanced Diablos against the Bryan McSweeney-led Dolphins.
In the other South Coast League game, Irvine is at El Toro.
Long Beach Poly (7-6) at Ocean View (11-2)--The Jackrabbits are still smarting from a 63-48 pasting from Mater Dei last Friday, and it doesn't get any easier as they try to win in the Seahawks' gym.
In other nonleague action: Garden Grove at Western; Magnolia at Rancho Alamitos; Santiago at Mayfair; Sonora at Marina; Fullerton at Valencia; Artesia at Savanna; Brea at Troy; Long Beach Millikan at Huntington Beach; Long Beach Wilson at Edison; and Los Amigos at Anaheim.