One small step for Simi Valley High, one more giant step for Shawn DeLaittre.
As expected, the Pioneers routed Hoover, their Southern Section 4-A Division first-round playoff opponent, Saturday night at Simi Valley.
And, as also has come to be expected, DeLaittre, the Pioneers' 6-foot, 5-inch forward, was a major contributor in Simi Valley's 82-54 win, scoring 31 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
DeLaittre's ferocious inside play, including rapidly improving post moves, decimated a much shorter Hoover front line.
Accused of disappearing in the big games in the past, DeLaittre has not only been visible for Simi Valley when crunch time rolls around this season, he--along with center Don MacLean--has been nearly unstoppable.
"I don't need to say anything, but that's the way Shawn plays all the time," Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking said. "He's a big-time player in big-time games. Somewhere along the line somebody got a misconception."
Any such misconceptions are now gone. DeLaittre has honed his game until it is nearly on par with that of MacLean, the Pioneers' 6-10 All-American center who averages 33.8 points a game. DeLaittre's average has improved to 21.7.
The game was played before a packed house of 2,500, including UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard and Bruin player Trevor Wilson.
MacLean scored 25 against Hoover but missed 6 of his first 8 field-goal attempts, pushing DeLaittre into his personal showtime.
"I knew there were a lot of teams scouting us tonight and I didn't want to show them all my moves," DeLaittre said. "But I had to."
In basketball these days, at least where Simi Valley's opponents are concerned, the slow-down offense is in vogue.
It is a defensive offense, one that consists of as many passes a team can make before players' arms get weary. Then, the team--Hoover, in this case--looks for the easy layup.
How simple it all sounds.
But Simi Valley has seen it before and has yet to be beaten by it this season.
So, even with the Pioneers ahead only 7-6 after one quarter, there were no signs of confusion or frustration.
"When you're passive offensively, the tendency is to make mistakes," Hawking said, "and almost be in a state of shock when the opportunity to score presents itself."
Thus shocked, Hoover made only 6 of 17 field-goal attempts in the first half and 18 of 56 for the game.
DeLaittre, in the meantime, went to work, scoring 15 points in the second quarter, and MacLean scored 12 in the third. MacLean got his points despite being bothered by a small cut on the middle finger of his right--and shooting--hand.
"I just had to quit thinking about my finger," MacLean said. "I was thinking too much about my shot and too much about my game."
DeLaittre's jump hook in the lane gave Simi Valley its first 10-point lead, 27-17, with one minute left in the first half.
The Tornadoes, behind a team-high 19 points from guard Joe Velasquez, stayed within range for much of the third quarter. The Pioneers, however, went on a 12-0 run late in the quarter to lead, 51-27. MacLean and DeLaittre combined for 10 points on the tear.
"The first quarter we did execute what I wanted to do," Hoover Coach Kirt Kohlmeier said. "If we had stuck to that we would have been OK."
They didn't, and they weren't.
Defensively, Simi Valley pulled Hoover out of its semi-stall with pressure on the ball and the quick hands of Darren Aurand, Mike Langford and Butch Hawking.
Hoover turned the ball over 16 times, 14 times in the final three quarters. On the heels of steals and defensive rebounding, the Pioneers dusted off their running game over the preferred half-court offense.
"It's a lot of fun when you get out on the break and the big guys start rebounding," Butch Hawking said. "It's just a lot of fun to run."
And to win, which Simi Valley has done a lot of recently--14 games in a row.
Hoover, which was forced to play Simi Valley on Thursday after a restraining order reinstated Muir for the playoffs, finished 13-11.
Simi Valley (23-3), ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section by The Times, plays Warren of Downey Tuesday at a site to be determined by today's coin flip.