From the Camino Real League basketball scoreboard: St. Bernard beat Serra; Verbum Dei beat St. Bernard; St. Anthony beat Verbum Dei; St. Bernard beat St. Anthony; Serra then beat both St. Anthony and St. Bernard; St. Anthony then beat St. Bernard.
What's it all mean?
You can't tell the first-place team in the CIF's toughest league without a computer, and it may take more than that to pick a winner after league play concludes Friday with St. Bernard hosting Mary Star and Verbum Dei hosting Serra.
The mathematical possibility of a three-way tie for first exists, and the coaches will meet Saturday morning for a coin toss to break ties. Only three teams are guaranteed playoff spots for the CIF's first-ever 5-A championship but the coaches are hopeful the Camino Real's fourth-place team will be chosen as an at-large selection--particularly because the team in first today could be in fourth by Friday.
'We're the Premier League'
"I wouldn't be surprised if any of the four make Long Beach Arena," said St. Bernard Coach Jim McClune, referring to the site of CIF championships. Serra Coach George McDaniel agrees, "If no one gets a major injury, any of the four could take it all. I think we're the premier league (in the CIF)."
The CRL's upper crust may have an easier time in playoffs than it had getting through the league, where they not only had to play each other but got tough competition from Mary Star of the Sea and St. Monica as well.
Mary Star has 6-7 guard Rob Doktorczyk, a major-college prospect, and all-league center John Basich. One can only wonder how far the Stars might have gone had 6-8 Devon Davis played. Davis was academically ineligible most of the season but is back in the lineup this week.
And St. Monica has scoring demon Earl Duncan, who has made the Mariners a stubborn fifth-place team.
Serra may be the soundest of the four contenders but the schedule favors St. Anthony, the only one of the four which doesn't have to play one of the others this week. All have strengths and weaknesses that have made them beatable some nights, unbeatable on others.
Serra: Lots of Talent
Serra probably has the fewest weaknesses. The Cavaliers have a powerful center in 6-5 Mark Sutherlin, outstanding guards in quarterback Darryl May, shooter Zarak Cannady and sixth man Glenn Gamble and one of the CIF's outstanding juniors in forward Keith Malone. A Jamaal Wilkes-type small forward, Malone quietly often leads the Cavs in scoring and is adept at converting loose balls in the lane.
The Cavaliers love to run and the free-spirited Cannady adds an element of showtime. When May is hitting his jumper he's one of the CIF's best point guards. But Serra needs good play from the burly Sutherlin to perform at peak efficiency. He did not play especially well in the first half of the season. he probably had his best game a few weeks ago when Serra beat St. Bernard before a rabid home crowd.
"Darryl and Mark are my leaders," said McDaniel. "I expected much more of Sutherlin. What he did against St. Bernard, I was trying to get him to see he could do that every game. Malone is so quiet it was a long time before I saw he was scoring so much."
Serra lost to St. Bernard when the Vikings shot out the lights and controlled the boards. Serra returned the favor by going inside and getting a lot of second shots.
St. Bernard: No Big Man
St. Bernard pretty easily outran St. Anthony to win at home, but the Saints controlled the boards and outmuscled the Vikings last week to win by nine. Both series point out St. Bernard's big problem: The Vikings have nobody who presents a big problem to opponents. They have to get their rabbit offense in gear to win.
Since becoming a basketball power in the late 1970s, the Vikings have always had a big man in the middle--until this year. Now 6-4 forwards Errol Talley and Kirk Howling are the big men. Sophomore David Whitmore, a spectacular leaper, spells them at 6-3. McClune usually starts three guards and 5-9 Reggie Howard has been the Vikings' most consistent player.
"Most teams are zoning us. Without a big guy, if our outside shooting's not there, we're in trouble," McClune said.
St. Anthony illuminates that kind of weakness, with monstrous junior Jamie Cardriche (6-7, 300) at center and Darrel Walker and Van Anderson at forwards. Walker, 6-5, and Anderson, 6-3, are major-college recruits and spectacular leapers.
"If you can't get them into a transition game you're not likely to get the ball into the key, unless you have a guy who's 305 pounds," McClune said. "Offensively, against us I'd say half the time they got a rebound off the miss. That's some bad fundamentals on our part, but other times that's just getting beat by better ballplayers."
'Slap of Reality'
St. Bernard has rarely run into better ballplayers, having won league titles the last six years. Now the Vikings are scrambling for a playoff spot. McClune refers to the team's close losses as "a little slap of reality" and says they may have some positive effects on his players. "Not winning the league is somewhat disappointing, but given the caliber of the league it's certainly not a shock," he said.
St. Bernard hosts Mary Star at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Serra plays Verbum Dei at Compton College, also at 7:30. St. Anthony hosts St. Monica.
On Saturday morning they toss the coins.