Ocean View figured to have just as good a chance as anyone to win the Southern Section Division II-A boys' basketball playoffs.
Small forward Marques Crane and swingman Torin Beeler formed one of the best tandems in the division for a Seahawk team that had its sights set on a second consecutive appearance in the championship game.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Beeler came down with mononucleosis.
That changed everything.
Ocean View turned into The Marques Crane Show. He became the team's go-to guy, scoring 33 points in a little more than two quarters last week in an 85-37 victory over Saddleback.
"In a lot of ways it made it easier for the team," Seahawk Coach Jim Harris said. "Get the ball to one guy and feed off him."
But there are no more Saddlebacks on the schedule for fourth-seeded Ocean View (20-6). The Seahawks could meet Monrovia and top-seeded Lakewood Mayfair--teams capable of shutting down one star but probably not two--before even reaching the championship game March 3 at the Arrowhead Pond.
Beeler, who has missed Ocean View's last three games, participated in a team shoot-around Monday and said he is feeling better. He hopes to play in the second-round game Friday against the winner of a first-round game between La Verne Bonita and Hesperia. Ocean View received a first-round bye.
Harris said he doesn't expect Beeler back until Feb. 20, when the Seahawks, assuming a victory, would play in the quarterfinal round.
The sooner Beeler returns, the better for Ocean View. He does so much more than average 16.3 points and 11.6 rebounds; he brings an intensity and a sense of urgency like no other player.
"We'll have a tough time making up for Torin's tenacity, rebounding and ability to defend the opponent's best guy," Harris said. "That's hard to replace."
Said Crane: "He's a complete player. He brings everything."
If Beeler is unable to return, Crane will have to take his game to another level, and the other Seahawks will have to play a larger role.
"I'm just going to have step up," said Crane, who averages 21.2 points. "It really doesn't matter to me."
Harris said he will shift to a smaller, more offensive-minded offense in Beeler's absence. Sharpshooter Steve Clarke, who is shooting 44% from beyond the three-point arc, will undoubtedly be counted on to loft more three-pointers, and center Neal Smith will probably get more looks inside.
Point guards Kevin Chow and Casey Ortiz may face the stiffest task as they distribute the ball without being able to rely on one of the team's top playmakers.
If history provides any indication of future success, Ocean View should be fine. The Seahawks weathered a stretch in late December when many of its top players--Crane and Beeler included--played through the flu to win the American Division of the Torrey Pines National Prep Classic.
"This whole season has been a series of adjusting," Harris said.
Harris said he first noticed that something was wrong with Beeler when he performed sluggishly in a loss to Long Beach Poly in late January. Beeler soon went to see a doctor, who diagnosed him and said the quickest way to recover was to stay in bed and drink lots of fluids.
Beeler did exactly that, missing two weeks of school. Beeler said his doctor told him Friday that his spleen was still enlarged but that it appeared he was getting better. Beeler will undergo another exam Wednesday before deciding whether he can go in Friday's game.
"If I feel good," Beeler said, "then I'll play."
Said Harris: "Knowing him, he'll try to be out there."
Crane said the team should be OK with or without Beeler--for a limited time.
"Even if he doesn't play the first game," Crane said, "we'll be able to handle it."