Everybody knows how good top-seeded Santa Ana Mater Dei is, but it might be time to start paying attention to the team in the Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs with an even better record than the Monarchs -- the unsung Montebello Oilers (28-1).
If the playoffs are the time to show what a team has learned over the course of the season, then Montebello passed its first test Wednesday in impressive fashion, executing the fundamentals and making few mistakes in a 64-41 rout of Corona Santiago.
Montebello won the Almont League championship but hasn't received much respect because the Oilers didn't exactly play the toughest of schedules. Their best win is over Anaheim Canyon, one of the favorites in Division 2AA, and they also defeated Santa Margarita.
But they have a coach, Marino Angulo, who played for and graduated from Montebello in 1992, and he has ingrained discipline on offense and toughness on defense. The players don't take bad shots, they sacrifice their bodies in applying constant pressure on defense, and there's talent on the court.
It all starts with 6-foot-4 Andrew Torres, the Almont League most valuable player who's the team's best-around player. He had 18 points Wednesday. Senior point guard Marcos Mejia, a transfer from Los Angeles Garfield, is only 5-8 but super quick. Junior guard Michael Carabes is a three-point specialist who once scored 40 points in a freshman game. He made four three-pointers and finished with 14 points Wednesday.
Then there's the most intriguing player of all, 6-11 junior center Antonio Worthy. He showed up as a freshman weighing well over 300 pounds, was slow and got tired fast. He's down to 295, can play an entire quarter and his size matters. He had 12 blocks and intimidated the Sharks all night.
"When you have a 6-11 center in the middle, it makes life a little easier," Angulo said.
The Oilers are hoping to earn some respect during the playoffs.
"We really want to win because everyone is talking trash," Torres said. "We have something to prove. We have a chip on our shoulders."
Mater Dei improved to 25-1 with a 95-46 win over Corona. Keala King led a balanced attack with 17 points.
"One and done" was the taunt some people had for the Oilers, thinking they would have a quick exit from the playoffs, but based on their opening performance they could be around for a while.