Phil Mathews mastery of the Western State Conference, Part III: His Ventura College Pirates walk all over favored Allan Hancock, 95-75, to put a wrap on the conference championship, a championship Ventura was not supposed to win.
Part I featured Mathews turning around a losing program in 1985-86 to win a conference title in his first year as coach.
Part II included another WSC championship last season but did not climax until the Pirates had captured the state title.
Hancock was supposed to have a lock on the WSC this season, especially after completing nonconference play with a record of 15-1. Ventura, meanwhile, was 12-7 heading into conference action.
The Pirates ostensibly were composed of All-American sophomore forward Cedric Ceballos and a bevy of unproven freshman who had a penchant for enjoying Ceballos' play. "Too many guys are standing around waiting for Cedric to do something," Mathews said earlier this season. "We need a couple of freshman to grow up."
More than a couple, it turned out, sprouted to new levels on the court.
Now listen to Mathews.
"It's unfair to say that we'll go as far in the playoffs as Cedric carries us," he said. "Several freshmen have emerged as fine players. They have 30 games under their belts. They aren't really freshmen any more."
Ventura begins defense of its state title Wednesday against the winner of a first-round game between Bakersfield and Palomar. Ventura (23-9) drew a first-round bye after being seeded sixth in the state.
Expected to continue making strong contributions are freshman guards Tony Walker, Wally Carter and Mike Robinson, freshman forward Eric Brown and freshman center Dave Heckmann.
"We're meshing well as a team and the younger players are gaining confidence every game," Mathews said.
As for Mathews adding another WSC title in Part IV of his Ventura coaching career, a lot will depend upon recruiting a new crop of gifted freshmen. He won't have to look far for candidates--the three high school teams in Ventura (Buena, Ventura and St. Bonaventure) have combined records of 64-9, with four of the losses coming against one another.