Minutes after Tuesday night's Southern Section 4-A semifinal basketball game between Capistrano Valley and Simi Valley high schools, Bob Hawking was asked if the final score was a surprise to him.
Hawking took another look at the scoreboard, as if to confirm that it actually read: Simi Valley 97, Capistrano Valley 69.
"Yeah," the Pioneers' coach said. "I'd say so."
Yes, Bob, you could say so.
Simi Valley, the team that was supposed to be too young to do well in the playoffs, dominated the top-ranked Cougars from the outset in recording a major upset.
As usual, the Pioneers (27-2) were led by their sophomore standouts, Don MacLean and Shawn DeLaittre. Each scored 30 points.
Capistrano Valley entered the contest at Pepperdine University's Firestone Fieldhouse with impressive credentials. The Cougars had a 27-2 record and four starters set to attend Division I universities next season.
The Cougars' only losses had come to Mater Dei, the defending 5-A division champion, and Santa Monica, which had entered the playoffs seeded second in the 4-A before losing in the quarterfinals.
But as Capistrano Valley Coach Mark Thornton told the Simi Valley players in the locker room after the game, "Nobody cleaned our clocks like you did."
Simi Valley was a team that many figured was at least a year away from contending for the title. The arrival of MacLean, a 6-8 center, and DeLaittre, a 6-4 forward, was expected to help this season--but not enough to make Simi Valley championship caliber.
Now, the Pioneers are a win away from a championship. They play the winner of tonight's Muir-Dominguez game Saturday at the Sports Arena.
"The Arena," DeLaittre said. "That's what I've been waiting for for a long time."
Reminded that he was only a sophomore, DeLaittre said, "Yeah, we've got two more years ahead of us."
DeLaittre opened the game on an ominous note for the Pioneers.
He had the ball stolen by Capistrano's Nathan Call, who scored on an uncontested layup. Simi Valley then turned the ball over against the Cougars' press.
Shawn Reed scored to make it 4-0. The Pioneers missed their first shot, and Reed hit a free throw.
Simi Valley committed another turnover. Reed hit a jumper. With a minute gone, Capistrano Valley led, 7-0, and Hawking called time.
"I was a little upset," he said, "because we weren't doing the things we had practiced against."
The Pioneers weren't getting the ball to Todd Johnson, their point guard.
"Once we got the ball to Todd, he settled things down," MacLean said. From then on, it was all Simi Valley.
Johnson's three-point play with 2:37 left in the first quarter gave the Pioneers a 15-14 lead.
Simi Valley made seven of its 10 shots in the quarter to grab a 21-18 lead. The Pioneers continued to burn the nets in the second quarter, making seven of 12 shots.
Meanwhile, Capistrano Valley fell apart. The Cougars made only one field goal in 16 attempts in the second quarter.
Simi Valley made all 15 of its free throws in the first two quarters and led at the half, 43-26.
The Pioneers opened the second half with six straight points, all but killing any chances the Cougars had of rallying.
DeLaittre made five of six field goals in the quarter to lead another outstanding shooting effort (11 of 16) by the Pioneers in opening the second half. For the game, Simi Valley shot 60%. Capistrano Valley, which was led by Reed's 19 points, finished at 33%.
Steve Jenner added 13 for the Pioneers, while Johnson had 11.
"We really wanted Capo bad," said MacLean, who also had 14 rebounds. "All the talk was about them being No. 1. Nobody was talking about us."
They are now.