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San Diego Sportscene / Dave Distel

Big East Has Nothing on County's City East League

February 22, 1986|DAVE DISTEL

Georgetown is in Encanto. St. John's is in Tierrasanta. Syracuse is in Mira Mesa. Villanova is in Point Loma. Providence is in Del Cerro. And Seton Hall is in Clairemont.

OK, the geography is a bit gerrymandered.

None of the above universities has opened as much as a post office box hereabouts, but they are represented in spirit--and performance--in the world of San Diego County high school basketball.

San Diego, you see, has its own Big East.

It cannot be seen on network or cable television. Neither Dick Vitale nor Al McGuire will extol its merits. None of its coaches will ever make a sweater famous. And the NCAA will not bestow its members with a half-dozen invitations to its postseason extravaganza.

However, the City Eastern League is very much The Big East of San Diego County.

At one time or another, all six City East teams have been ranked among the Top 10 teams in San Diego County. On more than one occasion, the City East has had five teams in the Top 10 simultaneously. Because these teams have spent the last two months beating up on each other, San Diego's Big East is now down to three Top 10 teams.

When the San Diego Section 3-A playoffs begin next week, only two of these teams will be in the field. That is the way it works. Each of four 3-A leagues gets two representatives.

John May, the Point Loma coach, has a better idea.

"The best playoffs they could come up with would be Poway, Sweetwater and the Eastern League," he said. "That would give us the top eight teams in 3-A."

Sorry, John. It doesn't work that way. It would if this was the NCAA, but it isn't.

And so Point Loma will stay home. And so will Mira Mesa, Patrick Henry and Madison.

In this Big East, there are two Big Beasts. Serra came down off its bluff above Murphy Canyon in Tierrasanta to meet Morse in its canyon hideaway in Encanto. Serra needed a win to earn a share of its first basketball championship, and Morse needed a win to take the title all by its lonesome.

It was Wednesday.

Morse's gym echoed with funky music, and a banner reminded anyone who needed reminding: "You're on Tiger turf."

Boston Garden does not have as many banners as the Morse Wall of Champions.

Madison? Stay home? Wait a minute. Sweetwater, 11-1 and champion of the Metro-Mesa League, played Madison--and lost, 85-60. Sweetwater is ranked sixth in the county. Madison also beat Mt. Carmel, ranked No. 8 and headed for the playoffs after going 10-2 in the Palomar League.

And Madison is staying home? What happened?

Madison suffered from being in the Big East, which is akin to trying to win a beauty contest against Brooke Shields, Kim Bassinger, Christi Brinkley and Daryl Hannah. For the record, Madison finished last in the City Eastern League. It had one win and nine losses. End of season.

"It's tough," Mira Mesa Coach Tim Cunningham said, "to come into this league with a good ballclub and finish 1-9. It's a killer."

It is not unusual for the City East to have one or two killer teams. It would be unusual if it didn't.

Will the City East be represented in the San Diego Section championship game? Will Martina Navratilova be in the finals at Wimbledon? Will Tom Lasorda eat dinner?

In the six years since the section established the 3-A division, the championship game has never been played without a Big East team. There were two in 1980, when Patrick Henry beat Morse, and two in 1981, when Morse beat Patrick Henry. Patrick Henry won it in 1982 and Morse won it in 1983.

"The CIF champion always came from this league," Cunningham said, "until Poway . . . "

Ah yes. The real Big East has to deal with the specter of North Carolina, a Maryland pratfall or two notwithstanding. This Big East has to deal with Poway, which beat Patrick Henry in 1984 and Morse in 1985 in the championship games.

It might be said that the road to the 3-A championship runs through Poway, but Poway knows better. It runs through the City East.

Serra was playing Rocky Graziano to Morse's Muhammad Ali, calm intensity against aloof smoothness. Serra owned the first period, but Morse owned the next two.

It went to the fourth period with Morse on top, 42-36.

This was quintessential high school basketball. This was old-fashioned cheerleading, rather than choreographed steps and daring pyramids for the benefit of mini-cams. These were youngsters playing for jackets and gold-plated basketballs rather than a higher notch in the National Basketball Assn. draft.

And this was a game building in electricity, as 6-10 Chris Jeter put Morse ahead with 2:21 to play and Deven Moran tied it for Serra 21 seconds later.

The City East had killer teams from top to bottom this year. They were thrown together like six pit bulls in a closet.

Madison would go from 9-3 outside this Big East to 1-9, Patrick Henry would go from 7-3 to 2-8, and Mira Mesa would go from 10-4 to 6-4.

John May's Point Loma team--9-6 in nonleague games--was 5-5 in league contests. That was good for fourth place and a postseason trip to nowhere.

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