There were times earlier in the season when both Chris Kinder and Danny Marques must have wondered if the future held a Southern Section playoff berth for the Long Beach high school basketball teams each coached.
For Kinder, the rookie coach at Poly, the pressure must have, at times, seemed insurmountable for a guy who a year ago was just an assistant coach of the Jackrabbit team that captured the CIF 4A state title. An 8-6 preseason record this year brought more doubts.
At St. Anthony, meanwhile, Marques was angered by endless questions about a pair of quality transfer players from another parochial school (Servite of Anaheim). And, since more than one newspaper tabbed the Saints as a favorite in the Camino Real League race, the former Saint and Long Beach City College star guard was on the spot after the school mustered a mediocre 5-3 preseason mark.
By Friday night, those doubts most likely will just be memories, when Poly meets the Saints at 7:30 p.m. in the second round of the Southern Section Big Five playoffs at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
In winning the Moore League title, fourth-seeded Poly has taken 11 of its last 12 games, falling only to league runner-up Compton (which meets top-seeded Mater Dei Friday night in other 5A playoff action), 52-50. The Jackrabbits are 18-7 on the year.
The third-ranked Saints began Camino Real play with a 3-2 league mark, then rallied for nine consecutive victories. The school shared the league title with Serra at 12-2.
In first-round playoff action, Poly beat Servite, 61-46, and St. Anthony made Alemany its 10th consecutive victim, 68-51.
With both coaches emphasizing the importance of the game to the city of Long Beach, it is ironic that the only thing missing from Friday night's match-up is a local site on which to play it. St. Anthony has been designated the home team, but Southern Section rules dictate that all quarterfinal games be played on neutral courts. Marques wanted to play the game at Long Beach City College, but the school's gym was unavailable Cal State Dominguez Hills was chosen when it was determined no other site in the city was available that could handle an expected crowd of about 3,500 people.