The scenario couldn't be set up much better for the Poly High boys' basketball team.
The Parrots, who barely made the City Section 3-A playoffs, are coming off a first-round upset of second-seeded Narbonne.
In a quarterfinal tonight, Poly plays at archrival Sylmar, which has beaten the Parrots twice in four weeks.
But the recent defeats have been encouraging.
Poly (11-14) was the only team to challenge Sylmar in the Mid-Valley League, losing, 51-43, on Feb. 6 and, 69-66, on Jan. 28.
Although senior forward Ellis Richardson has been Poly's best player all season, the Parrots' chances depend heavily on the play of his supporting cast.
Senior guard John Gillard scored 20 points in the three-point loss to Sylmar and scored a career-high 26 in an 84-75 victory over Narbonne last week.
"It's not going to be a matter of one or two guys playing well for [Poly]," Sylmar Coach Bort Escoto said. "They all step up when they play against us."
Seventh-seeded Sylmar (16-9) hasn't lost since forward Jeremiah Turner returned from a broken hand early this month. Turner helped offset the loss of shooting guard Brandon Jacobs, who was removed from the team in January.
In a 75-59 first-round victory over Franklin, Turner, Dallas Townsend, George Wrighster and point guard T.K. Reed each had at least 10 rebounds.
San Fernando (24-2), seeded No. 1 in the 3-A Division, had center Tyrone Purnell (ankle) and guard Devon Montgomery (back) go out with injuries in a 79-55 victory over Venice on Friday.
Sixth man Bryson Atkins played most of the game against Venice, but his knee swelled up over the weekend.
San Fernando Coach Mick Cady said the three injured players are questionable for a home game tonight against San Pedro (8-18).
No Birmingham player is more motivated to defeat Bell, defending 3-A champion, than senior Stanley Fletcher.
Hours before Birmingham (16-9) played Bell in the 3-A semifinals last season, Fletcher pulled a groin muscle in a pickup game at lunch and couldn't play.
Without Fletcher, Birmingham lost, 41-38, with Bell holding Emmanuel Evans to two points.
Fletcher and Evans combine to average nearly 40 points.