Should you file into the gym Tuesday night at Cal State Northridge, don't bother peeling back your sleeve and holding out your wrist.
When Simi Valley plays Cleveland at 7:30 in a matchup of the Valley area's best basketball teams, there will be no overzealous booster at the entrance wildly stamping hands with a black ink guaranteed to last through a week's worth of washing. This game has gone big time.
Real tickets, a real facility and an expected really big crowd.
"The tickets will be like a memento," Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking said of the colorful pasteboards. "It's different from getting your hand stamped."
For Simi Valley and Cleveland, ranked first and second in The Times Valley poll, this is a game that could give them an early season stamp of approval, without that messy buildup.
"It's sort of like a national championship in a way," Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell said, "because for the last few years Cleveland and Simi Valley have been the top programs in the Valley. Now we have a chance to see who the No. 1 team is."
But for Braswell, and apparently other City Section coaches, the rivalry goes beyond the Valley and into the realm of of Southern Section vs. City Section.
One game, winner-take-all kind of stuff.
"I've been getting calls from other City coaches wishing me luck," Braswell said. "It's not just a Valley game, it's City against CIF, too."
Despite the hyperbole, Hawking calls the game "one of the many real challenges we'll have." Says Braswell: "If we lose the game, the season's not over. And at the same time we want to win it."
For both, the game runs the fine line between tuning up for league play and winning for pride's sake.
Cleveland was 20-and-Fairfax last season, losing only four times--all to eventual City champion Fairfax. The fourth loss was in the City 4-A final.
Simi Valley went undefeated in winning the Marmonte League title and finished 26-2, including an upset loss in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section 4-A playoffs.
Cleveland might be at a small disadvantage, since it will have played only one game this season--a 117-61 victory over Jefferson last week. Simi Valley (4-0) marched through its own tournament, winning the final Saturday night.
If you're looking for an edge from summer-league play, Cleveland defeated Simi Valley in overtime in their lone meeting.
But if you're looking for a rubber stamp, forget it. This is big time.
Home-and-away game: Most basketball teams that compete in out-of-state tournaments go to far-off cities to experience new sites and cultures like those found in Las Vegas or New York City. Providence's team is going on a trip, but the destination isn't quite as exciting.
"We're going to Parker, Arizona," Providence Coach Paul Sutton said.
Sutton didn't pull out a map and throw a dart to decide the Pioneers' destination--he has a mobile home in Parker and heard about the tournament when he was there earlier this year.
"It's going to really help us," Sutton said. "It'll give us more togetherness and we'll get to know each other better."
Certainly, togetherness will be no problem: The team will be staying in Sutton's trailer home.
Parker--about 140 miles northwest of Phoenix along the Colorado River--has only one hotel in the Auto Club's tour guide, the two-star Kofa Inn.
"We can sleep eight people in beds and the rest will be bunking out in cots," Sutton said. "It's somewhat cramped quarters. It's going to be tight, but it'll be good for us."
Sutton also is making sure the trip is good for others. Providence will be taking packages of food, clothing and toys donated by the school to needy Parker families.
The tournament, which Sutton hopes will become an annual event for Providence, runs from Dec. 17-19.
Good news, bad news: When Jim Harper missed a 28-yard field goal in Hart's 15-14 loss to Arroyo Grande in the Northwest Conference semifinals, Rick Scott's football team's season ended. But with that loss, the season just might be starting for the Indians' basketball team.
First-year basketball Coach Greg Herrick will benefit from Scott's misfortune by getting four players, including two starters, from the football team.
A highly recruited offensive lineman, senior Brian Jacobs (6-5, 260), will work his way into the starting lineup at center and junior Brian Allen (6-4, 205), one of the premier tight ends in the Southern Section, will become the team's power forward.
Also joining Herrick's club will be Harper, a guard-forward, and Kevin Keogh, a 6-3 senior forward who transferred from Colorado.
"I can really sympathize with Rick," Herrick said. "We'll get those kids on Monday and put them to work. I'm excited about getting them. Who knows what we'll do with them?"
Skid ends: When the Moorpark basketball team defeated Santa Paula, 68-60, in Tuesday's opening game, the Musketeers snapped a 14-game losing streak.
Last season, Moorpark finished 1-19 overall and 0-12 in the Tri-Valley League. The Musketeers' only victory was over Santa Paula in the third game of the season.
So is Moorpark going to start a winning streak?
"I don't know and I don't care," Coach Rick Kent. "I only care if we play a good game or not."
Kent, 29, believes there is too much emphasis placed on winning in high school sports.
"I feel zero pressure to win," he said. "You play games and unfortunately someone keeps score. One team is labeled a loser just because they score fewer points than their opponents."
Staff Writers Sean Waters, Chris J. Parker and Steven Fleischman contributed to this notebook.