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THE PREPS | BOYS' BASKETBALL / CENTURY LEAGUE

Santa Ana Valley Still Wins Despite Losing League Title

February 10, 1996|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Ana Valley and Villa Park were supposed to decide the Century League basketball championship Friday night. But Villa Park had the title before it even stepped on the floor.

Santa Ana Valley won the game at Villa Park, 92-78, but school officials already had determined the Falcons would have to forfeit six victories--five of them in league play--for using an ineligible player.

The error was discovered when the Falcons were preparing a playoff roster to submit to Southern Section. The player, who had played about 12 minutes this season, was too old to be eligible.

Santa Ana Valley Principal Robert Nelson said his school could have protected its playoff ranking by waiting until Tuesday to report the error, but "that would not have been the right thing to do. Morally we were obligated to report what we discovered."

Santa Ana Valley Coach Kevin Stipp agreed. "There's no way I could have looked other league coaches in the eye if we had waited," he said. "Plus, how can we tell kids to do the right thing if we don't?"

It was a somber Falcon team that had an extended on-the-court huddle during Villa Park's pre-game introductions. Suddenly a team that had been in the county Top 10 much of the year saw it's season on the brink. Stipp and staff figured the Falcons (9-15, 3-6) had to win to get 10 victories and still merit playoff consideration.

The pairings will be announced on Sunday.

"The seniors were taking it kind of hard," said forward Ike Harmon, who led all scorers with 27. "I'm not sure what kind of game we'll play. The last time we had an emotional thing like this, when [then] Coach Rich Prospero was replaced, we got beat by Canyon."

Neither Harmon nor Stipp had to worry. The Falcons were firmly in control by the second quarter.

As they showed when they played in January, the Falcons had the quicker athletes and they were able to keep the game going at a breakneck pace. Most telling was the Falcons full- and half-court trapping defenses, which forced 19 Spartan turnovers.

Villa Park center Eric Chenowith got into foul trouble and produced 16 points and five rebounds before fouling out.

The game was only close in the first quarter, 20-16. By halftime Santa Ana Valley had stretched its lead to 45-32, and the score was 61-45 at the end of three.

The Spartans (18-5, 8-2) will place a league basketball banner on their gym wall for the first time since the 1975-76 season.

Although the Villa Park coaching staff went through great pains not to tell the team what had happened, Chenowith said rumors regarding Santa Ana Valley's fate had already gotten out.

"That took the pressure off," Chenowith said. "We wanted to go out and beat Valley, win the league outright, but we couldn't. The banner may have a blemish on it for losing to Valley, but it is still the first league title here in 20 years. And we should still get a home game in the first round."

In other Century League games:

Canyon 79, Foothill 55--John Brittingham returned from a broken wrist to score eight points in his final game for the Knights (5-18, 1-9). Canyon (19-7, 6-4) clinched third place with the victory.

Orange 64, El Modena 48--Juan Dotson scored 14 points and Holman Paz had seven points and 10 assists for Orange (11-12, 4-6), which held El Modena (10-15, 2-8) without a field goal in the fourth quarter, and outscored El Modena, 24-4.

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