El Camino College begins the final leg of its quest for the California men's community college basketball championship against Ohlone College of Fremont at 2:15 p.m. Friday in the first round of the state tournament at Fresno.
The Warriors (29-1) enter the tournament as the top seed and are favored to capture Coach Paul Landreaux's second state title since he came to the school six years ago. Ohlone (20-10) upset Merced College in regional play last week to reach the tournament.
"They're going to try to play a slow, half-court game against us," Landreaux said. "But we must play an up-tempo game and force mistakes. If you don't play aggressively in tournaments, strange things can happen, even against lower-seeded teams."
El Camino stormed through its Metropolitan Conference schedule with a 14-0 record, earning a bye in last week's regional play and the state's top ranking heading into the tournament.
8 Teams Seeded
First-round match-ups were determined by a state playoff commission that seeded eight of the 16 teams from the north and south and then paired them into upper and lower brackets.
Upper bracket games: 10:45 a.m., San Jose (25-7) vs. College of the Canyons (21-5); 12:30 p.m., Butte (25-3) vs. Glendale (20-11); 7:45, Fresno (26-9) vs. Mt. San Antonio (27-4); 9:30, San Joaquin Delta (26-4) vs. Riverside (24-9).
Besides the El Camino-Ohlone contest, other lower bracket games are: 9 a.m., Sacramento (24-8) vs. Grossmont (23-7); 4 p.m., San Francisco (25-4) vs. Long Beach (28-6); 6, Skyline (26-2) vs. Taft (29-5).
Saturday's quarterfinals will be determined within each bracket by matching the highest remaining seed against the lowest and then matching the other two first-round survivors. The two winners in each bracket will play Sunday afternoon in the semifinals.
The bracket champions will meet Monday night for the state title.
Counting on Wade
Leading the Warriors will be playmaking point guard Mark Wade, the Metro player of the year. Wade, a 5-11 sophomore, led the state in assists with 320 and set up the El Camino offense that shot a remarkable 64.2% from the floor.
Sophomore guard Greg Hill and freshman forward Dwayne Lewis pace El Camino in scoring, averaging 14.9 and 13.6 points per game respectively.
Freshman center Darnell Jermany and sophomore forward John Wyatt lead the team in rebounding with 6.8 and 5.7 boards per game.
Landreaux's squad plays a stingy, swarming defense that allowed only 51.2 points per game, best in the state. El Camino hasn't played in almost a month, but Landreaux said the layoff has been advantageous.
"We've been able to get everyone healthy," Landreaux said. "All the nagging injuries are healed. Now the kids are tired of waiting and very anxious to play."