It's been a long time since Fountain Valley has entered the CIF Southern Section boys' basketball playoffs as the first-place team from the Sunset League. Eighteen years, to be exact.
Friday on their home floor, the Barons will wear that banner for the first time since 1995, and will play host to a talented Inglewood team in the opening round of the Division 1-AA playoffs.
Fountain Valley is one of three Sunset League teams to open postseason play at 7 p.m. Friday.
In other first-round games, Edison plays at home against Walnut and Huntington Beach travels to Pico Rivera to take on El Rancho.
Two other local teams, Ocean View and Brethren Christian, began postseason play Wednesday. Scores from those games weren't available at press time.
As a league champion, Fountain Valley drew a tough first-round assignment in an extremely tough Division 1-AA field. The Barons, 20-6 overall, will be taking on an Inglewood squad that finished runner-up to the Ocean League title.
The Sentinels, the No. 12 seed in the division, joined Division 1-AA a year after they won the Division 2-AA championship. The Barons are not seeded but are ranked No. 18.
Inglewood features a starting lineup that goes 6-foot-10, 6-7, 6-7 and 6-5. Shooting guard Brandon Randolph is signed with Xavier, and senior center Nicholas Smiley took Division 2-AA Player of the Year honors last year.
"This may be the toughest first-round opponent that any of my teams have ever played," Fountain Valley Coach Roger Holmes said. "They return several starters from their CIF championship team from a year ago including Randolph. They have size and athleticism and have been a top team all year."
Fountain Valley went 8-2 to win the Sunset League title and capped the regular season Feb. 7 with a 61-51, senior-night victory over Marina. Senior guard Josh Armstrong led the way with 24 points and had six rebounds, six assists and four steals. Junior forward Joey Petersen scored 11 points with 10 rebounds, and senior center Jackson Gatlin had eight points and nine rebounds.
"We have not shot the ball well since halfway through the year, yet our guys have found a way to win the Sunset League championship," Holmes said. "We rebound well, are terrific in the open court and find each other pretty consistently. We have a monumental task in front of us [Friday]."
Edison: The Chargers (16-11) took the No. 13 seed in the Division 1-A playoffs and start postseason play hosting Walnut. The Mustangs are the No. 4 team from the Hacienda League.
Edison finished tied for second place with Los Alamitos in the Sunset League. In their final league game, the Chargers were upended, 67-56, by visiting Huntington Beach. Sophomore guard Brae Ivey scored 15 points, sophomore forward AJ Garrity scored 14 points, and senior guard Brodie Barton had 10 points on senior night.
The Chargers finished league play 6-4.
"Many people believe we overachieved but to us, we feel we are only getting better as the season goes along," Edison Coach Rich Boyce said. "We feel confident heading into the playoffs."
Huntington Beach: The Oilers received an at-large bid to the Division 1-A playoffs, but carry the division's No. 14 seed into their first-round match-up against El Rancho of Pico Rivera. The Dons are co-champions of the Del Rio League, but are not seeded.
Huntington, 16-10 overall, ended its Sunset League schedule on Feb. 7 and won, 67-56, on the road at Edison. Senior guard Andrew TenBrink led all scorers with 25 points and added nine rebounds. Junior guard Ryan Morrissey knocked down three three-pointers and finished with 13 points.
TenBrink is averaging 16 points and seven rebounds per game. Senior forward Harley Ruder, who scored eight points against Edison, is averaging a team-high 18 points and eight rebounds.
"We have been a little inconsistent since Christmas, but we're hoping a full week of practice can get us ready to compete in the playoffs and make a run at it," Huntington Coach Fabian Luna said.
"El Rancho will be a tough team. They have some very good guards who can create and shoot. They have decent size and bring a very aggressive style of play to the game. We will need to be ready to compete at a high level to be successful."
Ocean View: The Seahawks started Division 3-A playoff action Wednesday with a home game against Laguna Hills. The winner advances to a 7 p.m. second-round game Friday.
Ocean View, 20-6 overall and the No. 4 seed in the tournament, completed a 10-0 run to capture another Golden West League championship Friday with a crucial, 73-57 road triumph at Loara. The Saxons were a game behind the Seahawks heading into the showdown and would have earned a share of the league title with a victory.
Sophomore guard Kendall Small dropped a game-high 23 points and junior forward Dillon Reise scored 22 points with nine rebounds and five assists. Senior forward Reo Washington "gave us huge minutes in the fourth quarter when we pulled away," Ocean View Coach Tim Walsh said.
The Seahawks were 10 of 19 from three-point range in the game.
"There was a playoff atmosphere on Friday night, and it was important for our guys to play in that kind of environment before the playoffs," Walsh said. "Loara gave us all we can handle, and I was proud of how we responded.
"I am very proud of how far we've come this year. As a coach, it has been a lot of fun watching these guys develop a team chemistry on and off the floor. We are playing pretty good basketball right now, but we still can get better, especially on the defensive end. We are very excited about the opportunity we have ahead of us, and we're hoping to make some noise [in the playoffs]."
Brethren Christian: The Warriors, who started the week 22-3 overall, earned the No. 5 seed in the Division 5-AA playoff field. They opened the postseason Wednesday against Public Safety Academy of San Bernardino. The winner of that game advances to the second round at 7 p.m. Friday.
"I think our team is playing well and starting to peak at the right time as we head into the playoffs," BC Coach Jon Bahnsen said. "If we can get completely healthy then I think we have a good chance to make a deep run in the playoffs."
Senior center and UC Irvine-bound Mamadou Ndiaye headed into the playoffs averaging 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks, per game, and was shooting 79% from the field. Sophomore guard Brandon Bryson is averaging 10 assists and five steals, junior guard Caleb Keller 10 points and two steals, and freshman forward Cameron Griffin eight points and five rebounds per game.
Ndiaye (foot injury) didn't play in BC's 41-40 regular-season-ending win at Academy League foe Sage Hill on Feb. 7. Bryson led BC in scoring with 10 points including hitting the winning shot with two seconds remaining. Keller also scored 10 points.
Marina: The Vikings completed a 7-19 year on Feb. 7 and ended Sunset League play with a 61-51 loss at Fountain Valley. Senior forward Casey Hayes scored 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds and junior forward Hayden Winks scored 12 points.
"We had a fun season even though we lost a lot of games," said Marina Coach Nick Racklin, whose team finished sixth in the Sunset League. "Our team chemistry was great this year, and our guys never quit. Our job as basketball coaches is to not only win games, but to produce better citizens and human beings. I believe we have done that part of our job.
"I hope that our younger players, we have six returning next year, can remember how close we were to winning several of our games, and how important hard work in practice is to competing all year. I look forward to a bright future here at Marina."
CIF Southern Section Final Regular Season Rankings
Division 1-A: Edison, No. 13; Huntington Beach, No. 14.
Division 3-A: Ocean View, No. 4.
Division 5-AA: Brethren Christian, No. 5.