Wouldn't you know it. Just when all the neighbors are over and the party favors have been passed out, along comes Allan Hancock, dribbling as usual, to shock the guests and spoil the fun.
Hancock isn't an embarrassing relative, it's a junior college basketball team. But after dodging the favorite sons, pushing around three weak sisters, and walking away with the championship of the first Ventura College Tournament last weekend, Hancock shouldn't expect a warm handshake from the host.
The tournament final was supposed to match Ventura, the defending state champion, with Southern Idaho, the defending national champion. Because California teams don't participate in the National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament, this was going to decide the real champion, albeit a year late.
The match-up materialized, but only in the consolation final. If it's any consolation, it was a splendid game--Southern Idaho defeated Ventura, 94-91, in overtime after extending the contest on a tip-in with two seconds left in regulation.
Ventura (4-2) lost its first-round game to L. A. Harbor, 91-80. Southern Idaho dropped its first-round game to Fresno, 81-80. Hancock (6-0) took the title by defeating Compton, Fresno and Oxnard in succession.
Life begins at 30: Lou Cvijanovich is starting is 30th year as coach of Santa Clara with the team's toughest schedule ever. The Saints play in the Simi Valley Tournament, the Tournament of Champions and also play nonleague games against 4-A power Simi Valley and 3-A power Righetti.
The coach said he thought his team will hold up well after watching it scrimmage against Mater Dei and Serra last week. "I was impressed," he said. "We played well. We banged right with them."
Cvijanovich would rather his team play tough games early than build an impressive record against also-rans.
"Some coaches have the philosophy that winning builds morale, that it's important to give a team a taste of winning," he said. "I'm from the old school. I think hard knocks can do some good."
He said being the perennial favorite in the Frontier League has positive and negative aspects.
"Everyone plays their best game of the year for you," he said, "but we also use it to our advantage psychologically. We talk it up and and over the years the kids have bought it."
Tournament talk: Behind a thrilling, if inconsistent, fast-break attack, Oxnard (3-3) defeated Cochise (Ariz.) County, 103-89, and Harbor, 80-72, before losing the final to Hancock, 96-82.
First-year Coach Bruce Furuya was pleased. "We're a young ballclub and we got to the finals," he said.
Kenny Smith, a sophomore guard, led the Condors with 68 points in the three games.
Lament in Lancaster: Ventura's football season was stopped cold in a 30-degree chill at Antelope Valley, 14-10, last Friday night. Leading, 10-7, with three minutes left in the Coastal Conference semifinal, Ventura turned the ball over on a disputed interception.
The ball squirted forward in to a mass of linemen as quarterback Jason Matheny was tackled.
"That was not an interception," Ventura Coach Harvey Kochel said. "The ball hit the ground."
The break was all Antelope Valley quarterback Ron Whipple needed, as he completed three consecutive passes, the third a seven-yard swing pass to tailback Tom Smith for a touchdown with 1:09 left.
Antelope Valley Coach Brent Newcomb couldn't understand Ventura's fourth-quarter play-calling. "Why they were throwing the ball that late in the game, I don't know," he said.
Antelope Valley ended the Cougars' season for the second year in a row, last season having won, 34-0, in a first-round playoff game.
Despite the disappointment of the loss, Ventura (10-2) can reflect on another successful season under Kochel. In seven seasons with the Cougars, the coach is 49-29-2.
Cross-country: To no one's surprise, Camarillo turned in a solid performance in last week's boys' Division I cross-country championships at Woodward Park in Fresno, finishing fourth with 132 points.
The Scorpions, who won their first Marmonte League title four weeks earlier, placed five runners between 15th and 66th. Three of the five--Gabe Valdez, Erik Counseller and Chad Malesich--are sophomores.
Nordhoff finished fifth in the girls' Division II race with 175 points behind strong performances by Tami Dobel and Michelle Wilson.
Individually, Jana Haggenmiller of Thousand Oaks placed eighth and Camarillo's Jessica Craven finished 19th in the Division I race. Richie DeLeon of Moorpark finished sixth in the boys' Division III race and his brother, Alfredo, finished 20th.