While mulling over the stakes involved when St. Bonaventure travels to Santa Ynez for a pivotal Tri-Valley League game Friday, here are some Tri-tips to chew on. . . .
Either St. Bonaventure or Santa Ynez has won the league title each of the past three seasons, making the match-up the only Tri-Valley game that matters until Santa Ynez visits St. Bonaventure on Feb. 5.
Both teams are better this season than ever. Santa Ynez has perhaps the best backcourt tandem in the Southern Section 1-A Division in seniors Craig McCullough and Jeff Miller. St. Bonaventure has perhaps the best center in the 1-A in 6-6, 240-pound senior Andy Wagoner.
Joining the St. Bonaventure lineup after missing the first two months of the season because of a broken right hand is senior guard Mike Cadena, a returning starter who is a threat from three-point range.
If the game is a blowout, fans can always make the long trip to the Santa Ynez Valley worthwhile by shopping in nearby Solvang and dining with the Dutch.
Yes, the strong just get stronger in the Tri-Valley League. Santa Ynez has won the title two of three years since joining the league, losing only in 1986 when St. Bonaventure knocked the Pirates out of first.
"Nobody in the league matches up with Santa Ynez," St. Bonaventure Coach Mark Groff said. "Andy Wagoner helps neutralize the situation but they have so many weapons."
In addition to boasting McCullough, an All-Southern Section choice last season, and Miller, a seasoned floor general, the Pirates will defend Wagoner with 6-8 Shane Hamilton and 6-7 Paul Patla.
Besides Wagoner, who is averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds a game, and Cadena, St. Bonaventure counters with 6-3 forward Eric Tucker, who averages 13 points, and junior guard Rick Slyker, whom Groff said has improved steadily.
The main cog: Nordhoff is gunning for a Frontier League playoff berth behind the play of senior Larry Carlton, who is averaging 24 points a game. Carlton (6-2, 170), a three-year starter, switched from point guard to shooting guard this season.
"Carlton didn't do a lot of scoring until this year because they needed him at the point," said Groff, whose St. Bonaventure team was defeated by Nordhoff, 57-51, in a nonleague game last week. "Now he has the freedom to do more things. He's the primary cog in their offense. They set screens for him and let him shoot."
Saintly consideration: Despite a nonleague record of 7-7, Santa Clara is ranked seventh in the Southern Section 2-A Division, ahead of Bloomington (10-2), La Canada (14-2) and Santa Maria (13-1). The Saints are also ranked ninth in the state among schools of a similar size.
The respect can be attributed to two factors--the school's glowing reputation and its rugged schedule.
Reputation? The Saints have a record of 559-193 in Coach Lou Cvijanovich's 30-year career.
Schedule? Thirteen of Santa Clara's opponents this season are 3-A or higher. Only Orange, a 2-A team from the Pacific Coast League, was the size of Santa Clara.
Score: Santa Clara 53, Orange 38.
Channel sleeper: Although the attention of Buena opponents is focused on 6-10 center Shawn Kirkeby and sophomore sharp-shooter Jeff Oliver, forward Adan Valencia has quietly found a niche among Ventura County statistical leaders.
Buena is challenging Ventura and Santa Barbara for the Channel League title largely because of his contribution. The 6-5 Valencia leads the team with 127 rebounds--four more than Kirkeby--and has scored 8.2 points a game.
"Buena is by no means a one- or two-man team," said Ventura Coach Chris Taylor, whose Cougars defeated the Bulldogs, 81-75, in the final of the Ventura tournament two weeks ago.
Although the Bulldogs began the season with no returning starters, the emergence of Oliver as a three-point shooter, the surprising strength of Valencia, the stability provided by Kirkeby and the floor leadership of point guard Mike Sandoval has made Buena a solid bet to make the playoffs.
Soccer: The Marmonte League might be the strongest in the 4-A Division if the latest rankings are to be believed. Royal is ranked fourth, Simi Valley eighth and Newbury Park 10th.
The Frontier League is certainly the strongest in the 1-A. Santa Paula is the top-ranked team and Agoura and Calabasas are ranked second and third, respectively. Fillmore of the Tri-Valley League, is ranked sixth in the 1-A.
Wrestling: Channel Islands, ranked fourth in the 4-A, is the county's top team. In the 3-A, Buena is ranked ninth and Rio Mesa is 10th.
The JCs: Moorpark College has taken the lead for the so-called athletic supremacy title in the Western State Conference. Points are awarded based on order of finish in the conference in men's and women's sports and are compiled by Don Adams, the conference information director.
So far, totals include football, soccer, water polo, cross-country, volleyball and wrestling.