Shawn Kirkeby, Buena High's 6-10 center, was a notable scratch from the lineup as the Bulldogs defeated Dos Pueblos, 76-65, last Friday to clinch a tie for the Channel League championship.
Kirkeby was at the game but never left the bench. He was sick with bronchitis.
The sight of the 230-pound senior bundled in sweat clothes must have sent chills down the spines of Buena fans who remember last season--one wasted by injury and illness.
Kirkeby played only 15 games as a junior, averaging 6.2 points, because of a fractured thumb, the Asian flu and pneumonia.
The report on Kirkeby's condition early this week by Coach Glen Hannah should ease any concern of another promising season down the tube.
"He'll be all right," Hannah said. "He practiced today and did fine. He looked all right on Friday, he just didn't feel very well."
In Kirkeby's absence, sixth-man Mark Franke scored 11 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, guard Jeff Oliver had 20 points and point-guard Mike Sandoval had 15.
It was Buena's 20th consecutive win--a school record--and it served as a confidence booster to do it without Kirkeby, who is averaging 18.3 points and 10 rebounds a game.
The victory also gave the Bulldogs a two-game lead over second-place Santa Barbara with games against Ventura and Santa Barbara still to be played.
No respect: Despite its long winning streak, Buena is still listed fairly low in the 4-A rankings.
The Bulldogs are No. 6 this week, which is the highest they have been ranked all season.
Hannah prefers it that way.
"I kind of like being down there," he said. "I'd rather not be too high, although the kids were pretty disappointed after we beat Ventura and the next week they were still ranked ahead of us."
The rankings do not come into play until the end of the regular season when the top four teams are seeded. In this week's poll, Simi Valley is No. 1, followed by Glendora, Diamond Bar and Capistrano Valley.
Playing in pain: Ventura had won 15 in a row before losing to crosstown-rival Buena, 94-80, three weeks ago.
That loss sent the Cougars into a tailspin that resulted in two more losses during their next five games.
Against Santa Barbara last Tuesday, Ventura lost, 68-49, scoring a total of 14 points in the second and third quarters.
Last Friday against Oxnard, the Cougars' woes continued in the first half. They made only 9 of 28 shots.
But in the second half, 10th-ranked Ventura showed flashes of it early season form. In the third quarter, the Cougars made 9 of 12 shots to turn the game into a rout.
Coach Chris Taylor attributed the difference to the return of the pass.
"Our shot selection was terrible and our shooting percentage was indicative of that," Taylor said. "We were also playing tight. Sometimes it looked like we weren't trying to win. We were trying not to lose."
So at halftime the coach delivered a simple message.
"I said, 'You guys look like you're in pain,' " Taylor said. "Loosen up and have some fun out there."
The Don of the county: Don MacLean, Simi Valley's 6-10 All-American center, has become the county's career scoring leader.
He had 2,109 points entering the week, surpassing Jeff Boehm, a 1985 graduate of Temple Christian, who had 2,037 points.
MacLean's 52 points against Camarillo last Friday is also believed to be a county record.
The old mark was held by Scott Simcik, who scored 51 for Simi Valley in 1978.
Gray area: Ventura College rebounded from one of its worst performances of the season--a 92-89 loss to Canyons--by routing Oxnard, 100-68.
Perhaps a four-hour practice Coach Phil Mathews ordered the day after the loss had something to do with the improvement.
Wally Carter had a season-high 32 points and 9 assists against Canyons and 19 points and 11 assists against Oxnard.
Cedric Ceballos had 26 points and 15 rebounds against Oxnard and 25 points and 17 rebounds against Canyons.
An embarrassing miss of a dunk shot by Ceballos with five minutes left in the Canyons game doomed the Pirates. He was hit with a technical after the miss for hanging on the rim.
Ventura plays at Santa Barbara tonight, but will do so without center Mark Gray, a key member of last season's state-championship team. Gray did not suit up for the Pirates' game against Oxnard.