When Simi Valley High plays Santa Clara, the basketball program to which all other Ventura County programs are compared, the historical implications will be the furthest thing from Bob Hawking's mind.
The Simi Valley coach's 14 years of continuous service in the area is second only to Lou Cvijanovich's 30 at Santa Clara. Simi Valley has won two consecutive Marmonte League titles and is well on its way to a third. The Pioneers have reached the Southern Section semifinals in each of the past two seasons.
The Saints, meanwhile, have made the Frontier League their personal playground, taking eight of the past nine titles. During his tenure, Cvijanovich is 561-193, including eight Southern Section championships.
It would appear to be a natural rivalry. The teams, however, will meet for the first time Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Santa Clara.
"It's kind of like us and Cleveland," Hawking said. "The game is probably long overdue. We've been the two most successful programs in Ventura County for a while."
Hawking, however, shies away from any contrived coaching duels.
"Lou's created an unbelievably successful program, and he's done it over a long period of time," he said. "He's a legend, and he deserves to be so. He's been a solid contributor to every kid that's gone through that program.
"You don't really focus on the other coach. It still comes down to Simi Valley versus Santa Clara, not Bob Hawking versus Lou Cvijanovich."
The Pioneers appear to be better equipped for that kind of showdown. All-American center Don MacLean averages more than 34 points and 14 rebounds a game and forward Shawn DeLaittre more than 21 points. Guard Butch Hawking runs a show that has averaged 88 points in five league games and has yet to lose a game in California.
Simi Valley's three losses in 17 games have come in out-of-state tournaments. The Pioneers are ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section 4-A Division and have suddenly found a stingier defense to go along with a powerful offense.
"We've just got to get better defensively, and we are," MacLean said. "We've got so many weapons offensively, we're going to score our points."
Santa Clara is ranked No. 6 in the 2-A Division despite its 10-7 record, a tribute to Cvijanovich's willingness to play the toughest teams he can find before the start of league.
The Saints have yet to lose a game against a 2-A opponent this season.
"They're going to be a test for us," MacLean said. "We need some good ballgames to get ready for the playoffs, and this will provide us with that. They're going to be a test for us."
But not a history test.
Leg work: Nate Conner was having difficulty believing the diagnosis. Doctors had told him that his ankle was broken and that he could not walk on it.
So why was Conner still able to play basketball?
"It feels completely healed. I can run around and do things," said Conner, a junior guard at Grant. It took doctors a few weeks to tell Conner what he already knew--that the injured left ankle was strong enough to have the cast removed Thursday.
Conner suffered the injury during practice in mid-December when he went up for a rebound and landed awkwardly. "I could hear it pop," said Conner, who averaged 17 points in Grant's first three games.
The injury, initially diagnosed as a bad sprain, later was determined to be a fracture.
Conner was forced to wear a cast that he was told could not be removed until Feb. 5. Unhappy with the diagnosis, Conner sought a second opinion. "The doctor said it can come off," Conner said. "We're going to re-X-ray it and put a brace on it."
Although he has to undergo rehabilitation that could last as long as four weeks, Conner expects to be playing soon.
Grant Coach Howard Levine is not as optimistic, however. "He could play a couple of games this season but it's highly unlikely he'll be at 100%," Levine said.
Conner is not concerned. The doctors said the same thing.
Scouting report: After his team battered Monroe, 93-50, on Wednesday, Birmingham Coach Elliot Turret made a fast break to Chatsworth to scout San Fernando, Birmingham's opponent tonight. Turret watched the Tigers roll over Chatsworth, 75-64, to remain undefeated in Northwest Valley League play.
"They have the most talent of anyone in the league," Turret said. "As far as being athletes--running, jumping, mobility and coordination."
San Fernando (10-4, 4-0 in league play) indeed appears to be fulfilling early predictions of winning the league title. But Birmingham is far from being counted out.
The Braves (6-7, 2-2) can move to within a game of first with a win tonight at San Fernando.
"I think we have as good a chance as anybody in the league," forward Jason Moore said.
Guard Greg Maxwell said of San Fernando: "They're beatable.".
Maxwell and Moore have been Birmingham's big Braves. Maxwell, a 5-11 senior, has scored in double figures in every league game and is averaging 20 points a game in league play. Maxwell scored 28 points and had 7 assists against Monroe.