Ideally, a team hopes to begin league play on a winning note, but Fountain Valley High School and rival Ocean View both were upset this week in their final tuneups before tonight's 7:30 Sunset League showdown in the Seahawks' gym.
Ocean View (11-3) looked like two different teams in its 71-69 loss on Wednesday night to defending state champion Long Beach Poly. The Seahawks opened with a 20-6 lead and dominated play for 29 minutes. But the Jackrabbits overcame a six-point deficit in the final three minutes to earn the win.
"We watched the game and at times Ocean View looked unbeatable," Fountain Valley Coach Dave Brown said. "I don't know what to expect. I was wondering today how hungry both teams would be coming off a loss."
The Barons (8-5) lost to a good Muir team on Tuesday night, 75-71, but Brown was encouraged by the return of point guard Simon Thomas, who was making his first start since undergoing arthrosopic knee surgery four weeks ago.
"We've had four losses since Simon went down in the Tournament of Champions and had only one letdown against El Modena," Brown said. "You won't see the real Simon for two or three more weeks, but his presence helps."
The game features an interesting matchup between two of the county's best frontline players. Fountain Valley center Brent Martin averages 18.9 points per game. Ocean View sophomore Ricky Butler averages 10 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
The teams met earlier this year in the championship game of the Fountain Valley Tournament with the Seahawks gaining a 50-49 win on a 15-foot jump shot by guard Mike Labat with one second remaining.
"The outcome seems to come down to the wire in a lot of our games and it shouldn't be any different this time," Brown predicted.
Other Sunset League games: Edison at Westminster and Huntington Beach at Marina.
In other action:
Mater Dei (15-0) at St. Paul (4-7): The Monarchs haven't lost a league game in three years and are solid favorites in their opener against the Swordsmen. Center Tom Lewis leads the county in scoring (30.9) and rebounding (11.9). Junior John Scott is the Swordsmen's top player. Also: Servite at Pius X and Bishop Montgomery at Bishop Amat.
Foothill (1-0, 10-3) at Orange (1-0, 7-5): The Knights were impressive in their 62-53 win over defending league champion Santa Ana on Wednesday, making 60% of their shots in the second half. But Foothill will travel to the Dome where the Panthers seldom lose. Jud Dutrisac has been the Knights' most consistent player while junior Dave Roth paces Orange. Also: Canyon at Santa Ana, Villa Park at El Modena and Tustin at Santa Ana Valley.
Esperanza (1-2, 5-6) at Katella (1-2, 9-3): Neither team can afford another loss and remain in the race for the league title. The Knights got off to an 0-2 start, but rebounded for a 50-35 win over Loara this week. Junior Bob Erbst paces Katella with a 20.2 scoring average. Rick Webb had 22 points in the Aztecs' loss to El Dorado on Wednesday night. Also: El Dorado at Cypress, Loara at Kennedy and Los Alamitos at Pacifica.
SEA VIEW LEAGUE
Newport Harbor (2-0, 11-2) at Estancia (2-0, 14-1): This early showdown for first place has all the ingredients of a classic matchup. Both teams are aggressive and play uptempo basketball for fiery coaches. Chuck McGavran averages 17.6 points per game for the Sailors and Adam Lockwood averages 13.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 6 steals per game for the Eagles. Also: Corona del Mar at University, Costa Mesa at Woodbridge and Laguna Beach at Saddleback.
SOUTH COAST LEAGUE
Laguna Hills (0-0, 8-5) at El Toro (1-0, 6-7): While the Hawks opened with a bye, the Chargers won a wild, 96-90, overtime game against Irvine on Wednesday night. El Toro trailed by 13 points with four minutes remaining but managed to send the game into the extra period. Scott Shockey (17.6 points per game) paces the Chargers while Brian Seiling (17.0) has been Laguna Hills' most consistent player. Also: Dana Hills vs. Capistrano Valley at Saddleback College and San Clemente at Irvine.
Savanna (11-4) at Fullerton (8-5): The Rebels have earned a reputation for defeating teams with a height advantage and they'll certainly be looking up to an Indian team that has six players standing 6-4 or taller. Savanna's Tim Pittman has scored 48 points in two wins this week. Fullerton had won seven of its past eight games before losing to Valencia, 62-37, on Wednesday night. Also: Artesia at Sunny Hills, Troy at Magnolia, Brea-Olinda at Sonora, Bolsa Grande at Long Beach Wilson and Santiago at Western.