Estancia High School Coach Joe Reid has wondered aloud why his counterpart at Saddleback has had to spend so much time defending his team this season.
"People have been criticizing their record," Reid said of the Roadrunners, the Eagles' opponent in a Sea View League game tonight at Saddleback. "There's nothing wrong with 10-5."
By now, Saddleback Coach Pat Quinn probably has a stock answer for the question that he's had to answer several times in recent weeks: What's wrong with the Roadrunners? The answer may have been the fact that the Roadrunners kept hearing the question.
With four starters returning from a team that went 19-6 last year, including two who have already signed letters of intent to Division 1 colleges, big things were expected of Saddleback.
"During the preseason, nobody wants the spotlight on them so everybody threw it on us," Quinn said. "We were pretty much stuck with it.
"Everybody was making us out to be the next Mater Dei. I've got to admit, we do have talent. But sometimes I think you can have too much talent. I haven't been able to find the role players we need, and you can't win with offense all the time."
Things began souring for Saddleback when it lost the championship game of the Irvine Tournament, 55-54. The Roadrunners' opponent in that game: Estancia. The Eagles came back from an 11-point deficit in the second quarter and hit some crucial free throws in the final minutes to hold on and win the 32-team tournament.
Quinn is hoping for a different ending in the sequel against a team Saddleback (3-1 in league play) has never beaten.
Mark Walton, who will attend St. Mary's next year, is averaging 18 points per game and Bryant, his younger brother, is a 57% shooter and is averaging 4.7 assists. Chance Peterson, a 6-9 forward headed for the University of Montana next year, is the Roadrunners' leading rebounder (9.2 per game). Peterson has been slowed by the flu this week and may not be at full strength for tonight's game.
Estancia (3-1, 15-2) shot 28% from the floor but hit 23 of 30 free throws to beat Laguna Beach, 49-44, Wednesday night. Adam Lockwood, the Eagles' playmaking guard, is still recovering from a sprained ankle and played sparingly in that game. Reid estimated Lockwood will be playing at 80% against Saddleback.
In other Sea View League action, Costa Mesa is at Corona del Mar, University is at Woodbridge and Laguna Beach is at Newport Harbor. ANGELUS LEAGUE
Pius X (2-0, 10-7) at Mater Dei (2-0, 17-0)--Sole possession of first place is at stake as the Warriors try to avoid becoming Mater Dei's 18th straight victim. The Monarchs routed Bishop Montgomery Wednesday night, 90-44. Tom Lewis, Orange County's scoring and field goal percentage leader, had 35 points in the win. The Warriors beat Bishop Amat, 74-46, Wednesday night. Also: Bishop Amat at Servite. CENTURY LEAGUE
Santa Ana (3-1, 8-6) at Orange (3-1, 9-6)--The Saints will have to find a way to contain the inside game of Panther center Eric Hendry if they hope to maintain at least a share of the league lead. Santa Ana enters the game tied for first place with Foothill, El Modena and Orange. Hendry scored 14 points in the first quarter, all from close range, on his way to a 26-point performance in Wednesday night's 69-43 win over Villa Park. Also: Villa Park at Tustin, Foothill at Santa Ana Valley and Canyon at El Modena. EMPIRE LEAGUE
El Dorado (5-0, 14-1) at Los Alamitos (2-3, 5-9)--The Golden Hawks will be at another big height disadvantage, but that hasn't seemed to prevent them from compiling one of the county's best records. Under first-year Coach Terry Conley, El Dorado has relied on its entertaining, up-tempo style to play to tie Kennedy for first place. Los Alamitos, with the tallest lineup in the league, has been something of a disappointment thus far. Also: Loara at Esperanza, Pacifica at Kennedy and Cypress at Katella. FREEWAY LEAGUE
Troy (0-1, 4-9) at Fullerton (1-0, 10-5)--The Indians have the distinction of being the only team in the league with a winning overall record. Guard Ralph Tallent had a game-high 24 points in Fullerton's 69-65 win over Buena Park Wednesday night. Also: Sunny Hills at Buena Park and Sonora at La Habra. GARDEN GROVE LEAGUE
La Quinta (1-0, 5-7) at Rancho Alamitos (0-1, 5-9)--The Vaqueros, with all five starters returning, were expected to be the league's strongest team but has struggled. Rancho Alamitos lost its league opener to Santiago, a team few expected to contend for a playoff spot. La Quinta Coach Jim Perry, who saw his team falter during the nonleague play, said he saw some encouraging signs in the Aztecs' 67-51 win over Los Amigos Wednesday night. Also: Garden Grove at Santiago and Los Amigos at Bolsa Grande. ORANGE LEAGUE
Valencia (1-0, 9-5) at Savanna (1-0, 11-5)--The Tigers shot just 36% from the field and scored 39 points, but it was enough to beat Anaheim, 39-31, in Wednesday's league opener. Savanna forward Tim Pittman is the county's third-leading scorer (21.1 points per game), but was held to 10 in a 56-40 win over Magnolia. Also: Magnolia at Western and Anaheim at Brea-Olinda. SOUTH COAST LEAGUE
El Toro (2-1, 7-8) at Mission Viejo (2-1, 13-4)--The Chargers, behind the backcourt combination of Scott Shockey and Tim McLain, have been one of the league's early surprises. Shockey is averaging 19.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game and has been a consistent outside shooter. Mission Viejo is trying to rebound from Wednesday's 61-54 loss to Capistrano Valley. Also: Dana Hills at San Clemente and Capistrano Valley at Laguna Hills. SUNSET LEAGUE
Huntington Beach (2-0, 7-6) at Edison (1-1, 9-6)--The Oilers may not share the lead league for long. After Edison, they play Ocean View and Fountain Valley (teams with combined records of 22-9) in successive outings. The Chargers will have to guard against looking ahead to next Wednesday's meeting against rival Fountain Valley. Also: Fountain Valley at Westminster and Marina at Ocean View.