Just as coaches John Robinson and Tom Flores did before the Rams and Raiders met last Monday night, Valley College Coach Virgil Watson and Pierce Coach Larry Lessett refuse to turn a non-rivalry into a rivalry.
Pierce and Valley will play today for the consolation championship of the Rancho Santiago College basketball tournament in Santa Ana at 3 p.m. Pierce advanced by beating San Bernardino Valley, 93-63, and Valley beat Allan Hancock, 74-70, Friday.
But the game between the two community colleges, which are separated by four suburbs and the San Diego Freeway, will hardly be the thing of which tradition is made. The two teams haven't met since Valley left the Metropolitan Conference two years ago.
"We're not going to be trying to beat Valley as much as we're going to trying to win two straight," Lessett said.
Said Watson: "I guess it would be interesting, something to see. But I don't think you'll see too many people driving all the way out here to see it."
A Pierce win today would be the team's third non-forfeit win since it won the Metropolitan Conference championship in 1983-84. The Brahmas improved their record to 3-10 with the victory over San Bernardino. With the win, Pierce has already bettered its win total of last season, when it won only two of 22 games, both by forfeit.
Of Pierce's continued losses, Lessett said: "I think it has taken its toll. But it took a lot of character for this team to come out with that record and beat San Bernardino by 30 points.
"We came out in the second half and we knew we were up by 30 and we could have poured it on, but we didn't. We played a half-court game. You didn't see these guys taking long jumpers just because they were 2-10 and knew they were going on 3-10. You can look at it anyway you want and say anything you want, but I think that takes a lot of character."
To beat Valley today, Pierce will need more of the same from Andy Jercha. The 6-5 freshman forward scored a game-high 24 points and had 12 rebounds for the Brahmas. Tony Thomas had 21 points for Pierce, while Brian Italia had 11 and Kent Young came off the bench to score 10.
Valley 74, Hancock 70--Close games have been so common for Valley recently that it reminds coach Watson of reruns.
"It's like watching television but you can't change the channel," he said.
Friday, however, the Monarchs were more reminiscent of a new series instead of a rerun, coming from behind to beat Hancock in the second round of consolation play.
Mario Lopez and Robin Andrews hit two free throws each with less than two minutes left, and John Windham came up with two defensive rebounds with less than 30 seconds left to preserve the victory.
Thursday, Valley was beaten, 57-55, by Santa Monica.
"The difference between yesterday and today," Watson said, "is that Santa Monica did some things to disrupt us yesterday and we couldn't stop it. Today, we were able to adjust."
Lopez finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Particularly impressive were Andrews and Fred Lewis of Valley. Lewis, who scored only two points against Santa Monica Thursday, came up with 15 points and nine rebounds. Andrews, still angered over the theft of his car from the Valley College parking lot Thursday, took out his frustrations on Hancock. The 6-1 sophomore guard scored a team-high 18 points.
Despite the victory, Watson sees room for improvement.
"I still think we can play much better for much longer," he said. "But at least we got over the hump we couldn't get over yesterday."
The Monarchs will take a 7-9 record into today's consolation final.
PIERCE--Jercha 24 and 12 rebounds; Thomas 21; Italia 11 and 6 rebounds; Goodall 8; Dickson 8; Purry 6; Newton 5.
SAN BERNARDINO--N. Macon 22; Lane 14; Johnson 6; Jones 4; A. Macon 4; Garnica 4; Calvin 2; Moody 2; Motales 2; Parsons 2; Hardrick 1.
VALLEY--Andrews 18; Lewis 15 and 9 rebounds; Lopez 11 and 10 rebounds;Windham 11; Harden 8; Fontenette 7; Wright 2; Goodrich 2.
HANCOCK--T. Regueria 27; Vernon 22 and 8 rebounds; L. Regueria 10; Avalos 5; Barbarick 4; Coleman 2.