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Orange County Prep Review : Schedule Changes Needed to Accommodate Final Four, McKnight Says

April 06, 1987|Mike Cornwell

Basketball tournaments may be aping the plots of science fiction flicks. If you have a pet organism, why not clone it?

Just as the Final Four was winding down and Bobby Knight's prestige was soaring, officials at CBS Sports and the National High School Athletic Coaches Assn. talked about breaking out the test tubes for another Final Four, this one for high schools.

"Everything is preliminary and we're only talking concept right now," Carey McDonald, executive director of the Ocala-based coaches association, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Still, the concept is intriguing to some California coaches, including Mater Dei's Gary McKnight whose Monarchs (31-1) won the Division I state title. McKnight likes the Final Four concept but says some changes would have to be made in the existing basketball schedule.

"If they could do something like that, we'd have to shorten our three-week (state tournament) period to a one-week or week-and-a half period to get all those games in," McKnight said. "Otherwise, you're going to make the season awfully long."

McKnight believes a high school Final Four tournament would take about three weeks to play. He believes excessive student absences could be avoided if games were scheduled on a Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday format.

What's more, McKnight says CBS would have to devise a system that would pay participating schools adequate funds to compete.

Royalty humbled: When Laguna Hills was placed in the new Pacific Coast League, many coaches thought the Hawks would have an easy go in baseball. However, Laguna Hills, the 1984 2-A champion, has lost three of its first five league games, and Coach Jack Hodges admits he has taken some ribbing from his colleagues.

"I think they wanted to hassle me a little bit, in a fun way," Hodges said. "Coming out of the South Coast League--probably the strongest 2-A league and us being competitive--they thought it would be easy for us. It's just their fun way of giving me a hassle.

"I think people underestimated the league too. We've got a great name, and people think we're a bunch of schools thrown together so the league would not be very strong."

Hodges said that, on any given day, there is little difference between the league's first-place club and the sixth. The Hawks are 2-3 in the league and 6-5 overall.

"I think there is a little bit of stigmatism associated with this league of schools which hadn't done so well," Hodges said. "And we happened to be included because of enrollment. But I'm really impressed with the way the teams in this league have played."

Laguna Hills, which lost two games by one run, is a young team that has started as many as four sophomores. Hodges also points out that another starter is new to the school and two or three others are learning new positions. Moreover, they've lost Wayne Helm (7-3), their standout pitcher, who is playing for Arizona.

Having won their last two league games, Hodges says his team is playing better and believes it will be competitive. But he still ponders the possibilities of a team that might have been were it not for Trabuco Hills, which invaded part of the Laguna Hills district when it opened two years ago.

"What's interesting about that is four of their starting players were ours," Hodges said. "Had they not opened, they would have gone to Laguna Hills."

A wary smile: Trabuco Hills has outscored league opponents, 42-18, is leading the league in its first season and nobody is more surprised than Dan Munsell, the Mustangs coach.

"I knew we had a good ballclub defensively and good pitching, but I'm surprised by our offense. They're really swinging the bats," Munsell said. "Last year, we didn't hit hardly at all. We took ourselves out of so many games not getting the hits when we needed them. This year, we can get down three or four runs and the kids don't give up, they come back."

The Mustangs have won all five of their first-round league games and are 7-1-1 overall. Was Munsell among the coaches who teased Hodges?

Munsell: "I said it when the league started and I'll say it now: Laguna Hills is going to be there, they're the team to beat."

Not even a little ribbing?

"Nope," Munsell said. "Because I know he's going to be there. And he will be. He's a good coach, they've won two in a row and got 17 runs in their last game."

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