In the end, there were two familiar sights for Simi Valley High. As they have been since their sophomore seasons, Don MacLean and Shawn DeLaittre were there for the Pioneers.
In the battle for basketball supremacy in the Valley area, MacLean's 10 rebounds and 16 points in the fourth quarter and DeLaittre's 15 second-half points boosted Simi Valley to an 86-77 victory over Cleveland in a nonleague game Tuesday night at Cal State Northridge.
Before more than 3,000 spectators, most of whom stood for the final minutes of a frenzied fourth quarter, MacLean scored the game's final eight points from the free-throw line. The 6-10 All-American center finished with 35 points.
DeLaittre (6-5) scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The two-time All-Southern Section forward controlled the game when MacLean was forced to sit out for half of the third quarter with three fouls.
The tandem held off Cleveland's barrage of outside shots, including six three-pointers by Joey Manliguis, who finished with 20 points to lead the Cavaliers.
Forced to play without academically ineligible guard Michael Gray, Cleveland was further disabled when forward Richard Branham was hampered with early fouls. The 6-4 senior, who scored 33 points against Jefferson in Cleveland's only previous game, managed two points and took just three shots.
"Our so-called big men were on the bench most of the game," Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell said. "Who knows what would have happened if we had Michael Gray and Branham?"
However, Cleveland was able to make do with rugged rebounding and 23-of-38 shooting from the field in the first three quarters. The Cavaliers' game went to pieces in the fourth quarter, when they made just 6 of 20 shots.
Simi Valley, on the other hand, connected on 30 of 48 for the game.
"I'm usually quiet but tonight I wanted to get the crowd on my side and I wanted to get myself into the game," DeLaittre said. "This game meant our season. We had a lot to prove."
The lead changed hands nine times in the second half after Cleveland took a 58-56 lead with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter. It was the Cavaliers' first lead of the game, but Simi Valley didn't let Cleveland out of its sight.
The Cavaliers never held more than a two-point lead, and after Steve Carnes' layup put them ahead, 69-68, with five minutes left, the Pioneers never trailed again.
Simi Valley kept Cleveland at bay with accurate foul shooting and a sudden rebounding resurgence.
Simi Valley (5-0), ranked No. 4 in the nation by National Prep Poll and No. 1 in the Southern Section 4-A Division, turned again to the two players who have led the team to the Southern Section final and quarterfinals the past two years.
"People tend to overlook him," Braswell said of DeLaittre, "but he's as much a threat as MacLean. I was impressed but not surprised."
Simi Valley led, 41-39, at halftime after extending its lead to nine points late in the second quarter. Two free throws by DeLaittre with 2:15 left in the half gave the Pioneers a 37-28 advantage. But turnovers on three of the Pioneers' next five possessions, a couple of three-point shots by Manliguis and one by Adonis Jordan for Cleveland helped tie the score, 39-39, with 54 seconds remaining. Manliguis' production didn't soothe the pain of losing, however. The senior fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
"It hurts just for pride's sake," Manliguis said. "I've known some of those guys since I was in the sixth grade. Afterward, I had to look in Shawn's and Butch Hawking's face. It feels lousy."
MacLean scored 15 points by halftime on 7-of-10 shooting. One, a fast-break slam dunk late in the second quarter, gave Simi Valley a 35-28 advantage.
Manliguis had 14 points in the first half for the Cavaliers, hitting 4 of 10 three-pointers. The 5-10 point guard did not attempt a shot inside the 19-foot, 9-inch line.
Despite its size disadvantage, Cleveland outrebounded the Pioneers in the opening two quarters, 9-8, and was especially effective on the offensive boards. Simi Valley outrebounded Cleveland, 33-18.
Turnovers plagued both teams early. Cleveland lost possession six times in the first quarter, and Simi Valley returned the favor by turning over the ball nine times in the second.