There was a time, not so long ago, when a victory over Royal High to gain admittance to the playoffs brought smiles to the faces of Marmonte League coaches.
Smiles? Try hearty laughter, the kind that made their stomachs hurt. Beating the Highlanders was that easy.
But this, as many have learned the hard way, is a different Royal team. And Wednesday night at Thousand Oaks, the Highlanders defeated the Lancers in double overtime, 75-73, to further muddle the league playoff picture.
One year removed from its 1-19 debacle, Royal snapped a five-game losing streak to improve to 11-11, 4-7 in league play. Thousand Oaks, needing only a win to all but plant itself in the playoffs, is 8-11, 6-6 in league play, and looking for help.
Westlake defeated Channel Islands, 57-48, Wednesday night to give both teams 6-5 league records. In league finales Friday night, Channel Islands plays first-place Simi Valley and Westlake plays last-place Newbury Park. Thousand Oaks has completed its league schedule.
Meanwhile, Royal must be content to play the role of spoiler.
"Maybe next year they'll take us seriously," first-year Royal Coach Joe Malkinson said. "But this is a pretty good start after 1-19 last year."
The Highlanders had a good start against Thousand Oaks--they led by 15 in the second quarter--but it was their strong finish that did in the Lancers, who never led.
John Loder made the game-winning basket with four seconds left in the second overtime. The 6-0 guard took an inbounds pass and drove the left baseline for an easy layup.
Royal's diamond-and-one defense held Thousand Oaks guard Kevin Martin, who averages more than 20 points a game, to three points in the first half. Martin finished with 22, but none in the overtime periods.
Jeff Peterson led a second-half charge by the Lancers by scoring all 16 of his points after halftime. Martin scored 19 in the second half.
Martin tied the score, 67-67, at the end of regulation when he made a 10-foot shot with seven seconds left. The Lancers came from eight points behind with 2:49 to play on five points by Martin and four by Peterson.
Andre Smith's layup, after a bounce pass from Kip Jim Brown, tied the score with seven seconds left in the first overtime, 71-71.