As the veteran members of Bishop Amat High School's basketball team walked off the court last Friday night, they talked about how good it felt to finally have beaten Mater Dei of Santa Ana, of how they had waited four years to beat the Monarchs, the preeminent Southern Section team of the 1980s.
Alex Acosta, Bishop Amat's second-year coach, knew the feeling. He was a senior guard on the last team at the La Puente school to beat Mater Dei. That was in 1978. Acosta had waited 10 years to beat the Monarchs again.
Indeed, the 70-56 win on the road made for quite a night for the Lancers, who:
--Passed the biggest test of the season in proving they are the No. 1 team in the 5-A and one of the favorites for the division championship.
--Broke Mater Dei's 6-year, 55-game Angelus League winning streak, the second-longest run in Southern Section history, behind Santa Clara of Oxnard.
--Proved that Bishop Amat, an athletic program known for football and baseball, can play indoor sports, too.
"Our football program is so powerful, and the baseball program is so strong, we're now the new kid on the block," Acosta said.
It's all starting to sink in for the Lancers. Being 19-1 overall, 4-0 in league play heading into another big game Wednesday against St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs (13-3, 3-1) and the No. 2 team in The Times' Southern Section rankings is no dream, despite comments to the contrary.
"It's an unreal feeling," said Acosta, who was 17-10 and lost to Ocean View of Huntington Beach in the first round of the playoffs in his first year as head coach. "I think about it a lot. We're 19-1. If someone would have told me in September or October we would be here, I'd have told them, 'I don't think it will happen.' But then we started to play the games, and the kids worked so hard.
"It's so unique. We take the floor knowing that we always have an opportunity to win. Now, if we take a game into the fourth quarter and it's close, we have the feeling that we are going to be the fortunate ones and finish on top."
Much of that comes from experience and the fact that most of the team is intact from 1986-87. Four starters return--forward Geoff Lear, guards Clarence and Terry Lamb, and the third starting guard, Stephon Pace--and the other forward, Mike Conness, was the first player off the bench last season.
Four are scoring in double figures: Lear, who has signed with Pepperdine, is at 21 points and 15 rebounds a game, and Pace, also a star in football, is scoring 15 a game. The Lamb twins are both at 12.
The Angelus League has the top three teams in this week's Southern Section 5-A poll and four of the top six: No. 1 Bishop Amat, No. 2 Mater Dei, No. 3 St. Paul and No. 6 St. Bernard of Playa del Rey.
After Wednesday's game with St. Paul, Bishop Amat will play at St. Bernard Friday.
The Crenshaw basketball team had its narrowest victory of an already impressive season Friday, 99-96, against Westchester, but that still couldn't put much of a dent in the Cougars' scoring average.
While starting 17-0, the top-ranked team in the state and favored to win its third State Division I title in four years in March, Crenshaw has averaged 100.76 points a game and allowed 74.06. The Cougars have scored 100 or more points nine times, reaching or surpassing 110 five of those times.
In typical Crenshaw style, the great offense is ignited by a great defense--the press, the forcing of turnovers, the transition game. Trademark stuff.
"We play a very strong defense, and if the kids do what we want them to do, it's no problem in scoring," assistant Coach Joe Weakley said.
"We've got a good thing going. The entire team is playing well. I call it cohesion."
Bob Richards of Thousand Oaks High has been named to replace Darryl Stroh of Granada Hills as co-coach of the South team in the 38th annual Shrine football all-star game, scheduled for July 23 at the Rose Bowl. Stroh, picked to work the game with Dick Bruich of Fontana, turned the offer down because he had already booked a family vacation.
Benny Pierce of Saratoga High and Wayne Schneider of Tracy will coach the North. It's the second time Pierce has been selected. He also was chosen in 1973.
Elaine Youngs of El Toro, one of the top all-around girl athletes in the state, reinjured her right ankle in a South Coast League basketball game against Mission Viejo Jan. 14 and is expected to be out of action for a month. The UCLA-bound Youngs, who hurt the ankle initially in December, was an All-Southern Section pick in volleyball and basketball last season. . . . Hawthorne, with a team of senior Leroy Thomas, junior Curtis Conway, sophomore Chris Alexander and senior Travis Hannah, clocked a 3:12.9 in the 1,600-meter relay Jan. 16 at an all-comers' track meet at USC's Cromwell Field, outstanding especially for an early season race. Hannah's anchor leg was timed at 46.0. The Cougars ran 3:11.77 in winning the state title last season.