When the Cypress College men's basketball team won the Orange Empire Conference title Saturday, it ended a five-year drought for one of the state's most successful programs.
This season's Orange Empire crown is the first title for the Chargers since 1981-82 when they won the Southern California Conference.
Don Johnson has led Cypress to five conference and two state championships in his 21 seasons. Johnson is 440-190 at Cypress, which is ranked fourth in the state and second in Southern California this season.
"We are celebrating now but there is plenty of work left for this team," Johnson said Saturday after Cypress defeated Rancho Santiago, 74-72.
The next step for Cypress is the Southern California regionals. The first three teams from each conference automatically qualify for the regionals, which start Feb. 27.
Rancho Santiago (21-7, 6-2) is in second place and Saddleback (17-9, 5-3) is in third in the Orange Empire Conference.
There are 26 teams in the southern and northern regionals. Pairings will be announced Sunday. The top four seeded teams in each regional get first-round byes.
Four teams each from the north and south meet in the state tournament March 10-12 at Santa Clara University.
Saddleback holds a two-game lead over Orange Coast (16-14, 3-5) for third place and the final automatic playoff spot, but Saddleback has a much tougher final two games.
Saddleback plays host to Cypress Wednesday and Rancho Santiago Saturday. Both games are at 7:30 p.m.
OCC is at Riverside (11-18, 1-7) Wednesday and plays host to Citrus (8-21, 1-7) Saturday.
In the South Coast Conference: El Camino (26-3, 10-2) is one game ahead of Cerritos (20-9, 9-3) with two games left. Long Beach (19-11, 7-5) is in third and Fullerton (16-12, 6-6) and Compton (16-11, 6-6) are tied for fourth. Golden West (14-14, 4-8) and Pasadena (4-8, 15-11) are tied for sixth.
Add playoffs. The women's basketball pairings also will be announced Sunday.
Golden West (28-1, 12-0) already has clinched the South Coast Conference title and will mostly likely be the top-seeded team in the south.
Sixteen teams each from the south and north qualify and the top two teams in each conference gain automatic berths. Teams have to win two games to get to the state tournament.
Fullerton (24-7, 9-3) is in second place in the South Coast Conference.
Cypress (21-7, 8-0) has clinched a tie for the Orange Empire Conference championship, but Orange Coast (15-12, 6-2) is in second with two games left.
Timely Trouble. Everything was ready for the Cypress/Rancho Santiago first-place showdown Saturday except the Rancho Santiago scoreboard clock. The clock malfunctioned a few minutes before the game started and never worked right despite some imaginative repair attempts, including hitting the control console.
Score and fouls were kept on the board but time was announced every few minutes.
It's not the first board to have trouble this season.
Orange Coast played most of its first two Orange Empire Conference games at home with its scoreboard not working.
Saddleback lost to Palomar, 2-0, in the Western Arizona softball tournament last Sunday. The tournament matches some of the country's best teams, including national champion Arizona Western and runner-up Central Arizona.
Palomar defeated Western Arizona in one semifinal and Saddleback defeated Central Arizona in the other.
Saddleback beat Palomar last season for the state championship.
Community College Notes
Shawn White and Dennis Erk both signed to play football at four-year schools. White, an offensive tackle, is going to Utah State and Erk, a defensive back, is going to Colorado State.