Tom Danley, Katella High School basketball coach, is trying his best to downplay his team's rematch with Damien in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section 3-A division playoffs at 7:30 tonight at Cypress College.
Danley, who has guided the Knights to the playoffs in each of his 20 years at Katella, says revenge won't be a motive, even though Damien eliminated the Knights from the playoffs last year with an 80-68 victory.
It wasn't so much the defeat, but the manner in which the Spartans won. They shot 68% from the floor to offset a 32-point performance by Bob Erbst. Danley hasn't forgotten the game, but he insists it's history.
"I don't want last year's game to affect this year's game," he said. "I've always said, 'It's not who we're going to play, it's how we're going to play.' That's where it's at."
The Knights (23-3) have never won a Southern Section basketball championship, but have advanced to the title game twice. They have averaged 70 points and allowed an average of 46 in playoff victories over Quartz Hill and Centennial.
"Let's be honest, we haven't been tested," Danley said. "I told the players we've had two preliminaries before the main event. This is a big game . . . a main event."
Damien (21-7) is also rich in basketball tradition. The Spartans have qualified for the playoffs in six of the past seven years under Coach Mike LeDuc and have advanced to the semifinals twice.
"We've only won the league title once in those seven years, but we're a team that traditionally peaks at the playoffs," LeDuc said. "We played our best game of the year on Tuesday night (a 70-63 win over Burroughs of Ridgecrest). We played a complete game."
Kevin Partington, a 6-foot 2-inch guard, has every scoring record at Damien. The senior, who is shooting 53% from the field, has a 22-point average. Sophomore center Kelvin Woods has averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds in two playoff games.
Katella will have a decided height advantage with 6-9 Erbst and 6-5 Richard Lucas on the frontline. Erbst, who has signed with USC, has a 21.5-point average. "We're going to try to keep Erbst under 30 points, and see if the other players can beat us," LeDuc said. "That's going to be tough, because Erbst might be the best player in Southern California."
In other 3-A action:
Morningside (18-7) vs. Brea-Olinda (24-4) at Sonora High--The defending 3-A champion Monarchs are led by 6-9 center Elden Campbell, who averages 18 points, 10 rebounds and 9 blocked shots. He is being recruited by Kansas, Oregon State and Clemson. Brea's 6-10 center Kevin Walker averages 26.7 points and 11.5 rebounds. The Wildcats are attempting to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1975.
In the 4-A division:
Rio Mesa (20-5) vs. Capistrano Valley (26-2) at Moorpark College--The Spartans are the co-champions of the Channel League, and the Oxnard-based school relies on the scoring of 6-7 center Jerry Dawson. He scored 20 points on Tuesday night in a 71-70 overtime win over Culver City. Rio Mesa plays a 3-2 zone defense with Dawson at the top of the zone. The top-seeded Cougars are led by point guard Nathan Call, who had 27 points and 13 assists in an 86-52 win over Eisenhower in the second round.
In the 5-A division:
Mater Dei (26-0) vs. St. Anthony (15-9) at Long Beach City College--Jaime Cardriche, the Saints' 6-8, 320-pound center, is averaging 14.4 points, and 6-3 forward James Anderson is adding 14.2. St. Anthony's best player is sophomore point guard Darrick Martin. "He is the best point guard I've seen all year," Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said. "In two years, he'll be the Pooh Richardson of the West Coast." The top-seeded Monarchs have won 55 consecutive games over the past two years.
Long Beach Poly (18-7) vs. Edison (16-9) at Estancia High--The teams met last month with the Chargers edging the Jackrabbits, 40-38, on a pair of free throws by Dave Margulies with seven seconds remaining. Poly has reached the semifinals of the playoffs in eight of the past nine years. Osei Appiah (12.1 points per game), Michael Herring (11.7) and Chris Roscoe (10.3) led a balanced attack. Ken Ammann averages 18.1 points for Edison.