Just when it looked like someone other than Simi Valley High would win the Simi Valley basketball tournament, fate smiled on the Pioneers.
In Simi Valley's 67-59 win over Santa Barbara on Saturday night in the championship game, Santa Barbara had built an 11-point, third-quarter lead behind the strong play of Paul Johnson, who had 14 points in the first half.
But just as the Dons took the 11-point lead, Johnson went down with a knee injury. He returned, but was not as effective, scoring just six points the rest of the way.
Not that the Pioneers didn't deserve to win. Tournament most-valuable player Don MacLean had 29 points and made two free throws with 4:11 remaining to give the Pioneers the lead, 51-49, they never relinquished.
"We played a great game," Santa Barbara Coach Bob Pardy said. "It would take the Lakers to beat these guys at home."
Pardy wasn't the only one impressed with the Pioneers.
"We showed some character," Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking said. "We were down by 11 at home, which puts more pressure on you. It's a nice win."
In addition to MacLean, teammate Butch Hawking added 16 points and Shawn DeLaittre had 10.
For Santa Barbara (3-1), the starting five did all the scoring. Johnson had 20 and Bill Doering added 18.
"They didn't have a deep bench and we felt if the game was close, we'd have it in the fourth quarter," Bob Hawking said.
Johnson's jump shot with just under three minutes left in the half gave the Dons a five-point lead. They maintained that advantage to lead at the half, 37-32.
Simi Valley (4-0) has won the tournament all three years.