SAN DIEGO — Whenever the Oceanside and El Camino high school boys' basketball teams meet, there is a lot at stake. The schools are located four miles apart in Oceanside, and they have quite a rivalry. To the winners go the bragging rights.
For the past two seasons, El Camino has had the advantage. The Wildcats have beaten the Pirates five straight times, three last season and twice this season. El Camino has been the top-ranked 2-A team in the county for the past two seasons.
All of this is nice, but it isn't quite enough to top Oceanside's accomplishments. The Pirates, despite losing those regular-season games, have won two straight San Diego Section 2-A championships.
When the teams meet for the third time this season at 4:30 today in the San Diego Sports Arena, bragging rights will be on the line again. The San Diego Section 2-A championship will also be at stake.
"We know that we've beaten them five times in a row, but we also know that all five games have been close," said Ray Johnson, El Camino coach. "We're certainly not overconfident by any means."
If anything, El Camino will be trying to make amends for the disappointment it suffered a year ago. The Wildcats lost in the semifinals--and Oceanside beat Mission Bay, 63-40, in the final.
"We've had the bragging rights head to head, but they've won the big one," Johnson said. "Hopefully, it will be our turn this time."
El Camino, the Avocado League champion, defeated Mar Vista and Lincoln in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Wildcats (24-3) like to run and have the players to do it. Kenny Crawford and Steve Heard are both strong inside players who get down the floor on the fast break with guards Edmond Johnson and Randy Hale.
Oceanside, however, will be trying to slow the Wildcats. The Pirates (21-4) control the ball on offense and work for the perfect shot. And Oceanside has been awfully tough to beat in the final moments of close game.
"I don't care if the whole Sports Arena is booing," said Bill Christopher, Pirate coach. "We'll do what it takes to win."
In its semifinal victory, Oceanside relied on its execution and last-minute heroics to beat a faster Castle Park team, 45-39. In the first round, the Pirates beat La Jolla, 40-36.
Junior Seau, Oceanside's power forward, is the team's top offensive weapon. Center Okland Salavea and forward Mike Owens have also provided some key plays for the Pirates down the stretch.
"After we won it last year, everybody said we couldn't do it again because we were losing so many people," Christopher said. "But these kids have hung in there and learned how to win these close ones."