El Dorado High School's basketball team is a tough group to keep tabs on.
Ask Los Alamitos Coach Steve Brooks. His team lost track of the Golden Hawks for a couple minutes in the third quarter Wednesday night, but that brief lapse of attention cost the Griffins as El Dorado (6-1, 14-3) came away with an 86-81 victory.
The Hawks, who outscored Los Alamitos, 12-4, early in the third quarter to take control, remain tied for first place in the Empire League standings with Katella. Los Alamitos (5-2, 11-5) dropped into a second-place tie with Cypress.
Even El Dorado Coach Terry Conley has an occasional problem keeping track of his team.
His star player, forward Jim Sammon, became the second Golden Hawk in a week to arrive a little late before a game.
Conley likes to keep an especially close eye on tardy players, so he plants them nearby for the early part of the game--in a seat on the Golden Hawk bench. Sammon, despite his 27-point-per-game average and 55% shooting percentage, was no exception.
He sat out the first four minutes of the game as a punishment for hanging around home too long to watch his favorite pro team, the Boston Celtics, make the Lakers look silly on TV. The next game he started watching--the one played by his favorite high school team--was a lot closer.
Sammon's first basket with 2:50 left in the first quarter tied the game at 15-15. Otherwise, he wasn't a major factor in the first half, making 3 of 10 shots under tight surveillance by the Griffins.
Playing effective defense against El Dorado is a tall order, not because the Golden Hawks are particularly tall--they aren't--but because they are so quick and versatile.
The Griffins figured they had to do two things to have a chance to win: to stop Sammon and Dan Bailey.
The Griffins handled those assignments well, but it didn't really hurt the El Dorado offense that much. As Conley's benching of Sammon (who finished with 21 points) was intended to illustrate, El Dorado prides itself on balance.
And true to form, somebody new emerged to accept temporary leadership. Center Herb Krapf scored 10 of his 17 points in the first-half to help the Golden Hawks to a 37-35 halftime lead. But they had to overcome abysmal team shooting (36%) and a four-minute scoring drought. Los Alamitos shot 54% (14 of 26) in the first half.
"I guess since we scored 26 (points) in the first half, some of them thought we could take a rest," Conley said, slightly disgusted. " . . . (But) Herb Krapf played the best half of his life and the best game of his life. He was the only guy to play (consistently) the whole game."
A fan in the El Dorado cheering section held up a sign at halftime with questionable grammar but an unmistakable message: "It don't Snow in Hawk Gym." The reference was to Los Alamitos' talented quarterback and guard, J.T. Snow, whose comeback performance thwarted El Dorado's playoff hopes in football.
Despite the prediction, it "Snowed" quite a bit at El Dorado Wednesday, but not enough to bury the well-rounded Hawks. Snow finished with a game-high 26 points.