Ten boys' basketball teams from Ventura County qualified for the Southern Section playoffs, including league champions Buena, Simi Valley, Santa Clara and St. Bonaventure. All first-round games are Friday night at 7:30.
Inglewood (13-10) at Buena (21-2)--Buena is a team with chemistry that has defeated teams with superior athletes all season. The Bulldogs defeated Santa Barbara, 67-65, to win the Channel League title outright Friday night. Inglewood is similar to Santa Barbara in that it relies heavily on one player: forward Harold Miner. The 6-5 junior averages 26.4 points and 11.1 rebounds a game and is considered one of the top underclassmen in the state. Inglewood started last week needing two victories to make the playoffs. Miner responded with 46 points as the Sentinels upset Ocean League champion Beverly Hills, and he followed that performance with a 35-point, 17-rebound performance in a win over Hawthorne. Inglewood's Coach is Vince Coombs, who is with the varsity for the first time since 1980. That year's team, which was led by former UCLA star Ralph Jackson and Phoenix Suns starter Jay Humphries, was 29-0. Buena, which has won 14 games in a row, is at the top of its game. Center Shawn Kirkeby, a 6-10 senior, averages 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. "The kids have momentum going for them and they're confident. That's important," Coach Glen Hannah said. The Bulldogs are also pressure-tested. Four of Buena's games have been decided by two points or less. "We've played under pressure and in front of big crowds," Hannah said. The Bulldogs also have a pair of top-notch guards to complement Kirkeby in Mike Sandoval and Jeff Oliver. Sandoval led the county in assists during the regular season and still averaged 11 points a game. Oliver, who can be deadly from three-point range, averages 18 points a game. "I don't think of him as a sophomore at all," Hannah said of Oliver. "He has always played older. Even in youth leagues. He can handle the pressure."
Ventura (20-5) at Beverly Hills (22-3)--The length of Ventura's playoff journey depends on which Cougar team shows up to play: The one that started the season 15-0, or the one that lost five of its past 10. Beverly Hills, champion of the Ocean League, was one of Ventura's early victims. The Normans blew an 18-point lead and lost to Ventura, 58-57, in the championship of their own tournament. Beverly Hills lost only two other games. "They're playing in their gym and they have a revenge factor," Coach Chris Taylor of Ventura said of his team's opponent. But looking at it in a positive sense, Taylor is pleased his team will not be playing in a completely foreign gym. "We won four games in that place, so that should help," he said. So should the return of a healthy Chris Hantgin. The 6-4 forward missed two games because of the flu before returning to the lineup Saturday, when Ventura met Rio Mesa in a tiebreaker game to decide third place in the Channel League. Hantgin responded with 26 points in the Cougars' 63-42 victory. Ironically, before the Rio Mesa game, Taylor showed his team a tape of its victory over Beverly Hills. "I said, 'Look how well we came back as a team. Lets go out and do that,' " Taylor said. Now they'll have to do it again. Beverly Hills is led by guard Chris Plummer, who averages 20 points a game, and forward Derek Patton, who averages 15.3.
Crescenta Valley (14-10) at Simi Valley (22-3)--Simi Valley has 6-10 All-American Don MacLean, 6-5 All-Southern Section Shawn DeLaittre and 6-1 three-point-shooting floor general Butch Hawking.Crescenta Valley has . . . well, Crescenta Valley has 5-9 Brad Adam. Not Brad and Adam, just Brad Adam. He is good, averaging 22.3 points and 4 assists a game while handling the ball about 50% of the time, but MacLean, DeLaittre and Co. he is not. "Can anybody match up with Simi Valley?," asked John Goffredo, Crescenta Valley's coach of 10 years. The answer, Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking hopes, is "no." Simi Valley was bounced from the playoffs in the quarterfinals last season and was defeated by Muir in the final two years ago. But MacLean (33.8 points, 13 rebounds) and DeLaittre (21.7 points, 8 rebounds) are seniors as is Hawking, who averages 12.1 points and 8.8 assists. Assigned to contain Simi Valley's big men are 6-5 Mark Schrobilgen (15 points, 9.5 rebounds) and 6-6 Mike Harrison (8 rebounds). "Maybe we'll hold MacLean to 25 points," Goffredo said. Crescenta Valley, which only made the playoffs because Muir forfeited all of its Pacific League wins, has qualified for postseason play 17 of the past 20 years.