It may be May and the event seven months away, but the national boys' basketball tournament scheduled for December at Santa Clara High ought to be more than a speck in the distance to the Oxnard chapter of the Knights of Columbus, the tournament sponsor.
Tournament officials want the best teams in the nation to flock to Santa Clara. Yet unless confirmations are made in the next two months or so, brackets may have to be filled with rejects from the Piru 6-foot-and-under recreational circuit. Shopping must begin now to organize a first-class holiday tournament.
The event is still in "the formative stages," according to Ted Robles, the tournament director. "The Knights have had other functions lately and we're just turning our attention back to the tournament."
Letters were mailed in March to 37 top schools, including every school on last season's USA Today top 20 list. Only Laurinburg Institute of Laurinburg, N. C., a nationally recognized power, has committed to play.
"We got a good response to the letters," Robles said. "We will contact teams next month for confirmations."
Knights of Columbus and Santa Clara officials hope to form an eight-team tournament this year that may expand in future years.
Santa Paula suffrage: Despite losing three starters before the season began and another to injuries, Santa Paula nearly made the 2-A Division playoffs. In fact, it took an Agoura win over previously unbeaten Santa Clara and a Calabasas win over Santa Paula on the last day of the regular season to keep the Cardinals from qualifying.
"We were hit with some obstacles but were able to hang in there," Coach Henry Jacinto said.
The first obstacle was a decision by Marco Sanchez, Joe Magdaleno and Joe Johnson not to play baseball. Sanchez and Magdaleno had helped the soccer team to the 1-A championship. Johnson was the basketball team's best player. All three were projected starters. Next, left-hander Pat Stockton, the team's best pitcher, hurt his pitching arm in the season's third game and caught chicken pox about the time the arm healed.
Santa Paula, the Frontier League champion in 1987 with a record of 11-1, battled back with three league wins in a row and needed only to defeat Calabasas in the league finale to gain a playoff berth. Calabasas won, 8-4, however, which coupled with Agoura's 7-3 upset of Santa Clara, dashed the Cardinals' hopes.
Still, Jacinto was pleased with the way his team handled adversity. Right-hander Jose Gonzalez, who pitched seven complete games and batted .344, was an especially pleasant surprise.
"The kids had a tremendous attitude," Jacinto said.
Add Frontier League: Santa Clara pitcher Richard Mendez had not lost a game in seven starts and had given up only six earned runs all season until Agoura's 7-3 upset win that gave the Chargers a playoff berth and eliminated Santa Paula.
Mendez, who led the county with an 0.85 earned-run average, gave up six earned runs, five coming on a pair of home runs.
Add suffrage: Thousand Oaks traveled to Ocean View for the first round of the 5-A Division playoffs expecting to play a team that manufactured runs via bunts and bloop singles. Ocean View finished second in the Sunset League with an 8-6-1 record by virtue of a forfeit victory and the team hit only eight home runs during the regular season. Thousand Oaks, meanwhile, had a school record 29 home runs and nine players batting over .300.
Score: Ocean View 15, Thousand Oaks 10. Seven of the Lancer runs were scored in the seventh after the outcome was no longer in doubt.
"I couldn't believe the way they hit," Thousand Oaks catcher Mark Skeels said.
Add Skeels: The senior switch-hitter should know about hot hitters. Although he stands only 5-8, Skeels batted .456 with five home runs.
Skeels, whose older brother Andy is a catcher in the San Diego Padres organization, also posts excellent numbers in the classroom: He's had one grade in high school under an A.
Westlake replacement: Since baseball Coach Dennis Judd announced his resignation May 12, Westlake High Athletic Director Bob Fisher said he has received 15 inquiries regarding the open job.
According to Fisher, he usually must greet the caller with a bit of bad news--it is a walk-on position.
"Particularly in a major program, it is really difficult for the coach because he's not on campus," he said. "He has no contact with the kids except for two hours after school."
Westlake will lose at least four teaching positions as it is, and the coaching situation is not altogether new. Of Westlake's 45 coaches, 36 are walk-ons.
Burnham heats up: The date was Saturday, March 17, and Angela Burnham of Rio Mesa High had just won the girls' 100 and 200 meters at the Northridge Invitational at Cal State Northridge.
Her wind-aided time of 11.53 seconds in the 100 was the fastest high school time in the nation at the time, and her 24.16 in the 200 led the state. But Rio Mesa Coach Brian FitzGerald was worried.