Coach Paul Landreaux's mission this season at El Camino College was to build a championship basketball team despite the absence of a true point guard and the fact that his team sometimes gave him fits.
Wednesday night, Landreaux's project reached fruition when El Camino defeated Cerritos, 70-63, clearing the way to hang a South Coast Conference championship banner in the Warriors' gym.
Last season, El Camino and Cerritos shared the conference title, but the 1987-88 crown belongs solely to the Warriors, who improved to 11-2 in conference and 26-3 overall. Cerritos, the second-place club, fell to 9-4 and 20-10.
"It's much nicer to say 'Hey, we're the South Coast Conference champs' than to have to share it," said Landreaux, looking on as the Warriors cut down the nets. "If we don't win another game this year, I'll still be ecstatic for these guys, because you don't know how tough it's been. It's been one of those years. We won it, but I don't know how we did it."
Lately El Camino has played just good enough to win, and so it was Wednesday night when the Falcons threatened to spoil the Warriors' championship plans.
El Camino jumped out to a quick lead, but Cerritos mounted a 13-0 scoring spurt to erase the Warriors' lead. El Camino got back into the fray behind the hot hand of top scorer Kirkland Howling, who finished with 24 points, and the inside game of forward Charles White, who chipped in with 16.
Howling was happy to contribute. "It feels good to win two (conference championships) in a row," he said.
Howling, White and five other El Camino sophomores have won 52 games in their two years and have lost just eight.
The gravity of that accomplishment was not lost on Arlandis Rush, who was asked to step in at the point guard spot at the start of the season.
"We've had a lot of problems because I'm not a true point guard," Rush said. "But I just try to contribute. We all worked real hard for this and all the credit goes to the coach. He calls us the cardiac kids because we do all the wrong things but still win."
Today, Landreaux is calling them the conference champions.