Ocean View High School basketball Coach Jim Harris felt ambivalent about this week's layoff between the first and second rounds of the Southern Section 5-A playoffs.
Just when the Seahawks (22-3) had fine-tuned their balanced style of play, and just when the team was most eager to test new opponents, the 5-A playoff teams were put on hold for two straight Wednesdays.
The hiatus was designed to allow the other 32-team divisions to keep pace with the new 16-team 5-A division. But it still felt strange, and made the Sunset League champion Seahawks impatient for tonight's second-round game against St. Bernard (17-7) at Bishop Montgomery High School.
"It's in our body chemistry to play Wednesday and Friday," Harris said. "Last week I wanted to have a game on Wednesday. But in a way, this could be good because it might make us even hungrier."
The dead week certainly didn't harm the Seahawks as much as the Vikings, who dropped like flies following Friday's opening-round victory over Pius X.
St. Bernard, the third-place team from the Camino Real League, lost one player to academic ineligibility, while two others missed practice this week due to the flu, according to Viking Coach Jim McClune. Point guard Reggie Howard, who leads the team with 13 points and 5 assists per game, was among the flu victims.
But it was the loss of sophomore guard David Whitmore, the Vikings' finest shooter, which qualified as the bad break of the week. Whitmore scored 14 points Friday, and followed up with a case of the chicken pox Saturday. McClune expected Howard at practice Thursday, but Whitmore is out for tonight's game.
"Now I'm breaking out in spots--psychosomatic ones," McClune said.
McClune said St. Bernard's starting core might be described as five guards--three of whom masquerade as a center and two forwards. Forward Errol Talley's 6-foot 5-inch frame represents the Viking height, and by no coincidence, he is the team's top rebounder with an average of 6 per game, along with 13 points.
The Vikings' strength lies in their well-distributed scoring, Federal-Express quickness, and skillful fast break.
"That's about all we have, our speed," McClune said. "We are the quickest team I saw this year."
But McClune said the Seahawks' height, particularly that of 6-7 center Ricky Butler, was imposing.
"Size disparity generally leads to a disparity in rebounding," he said. "If we have a problem with rebounds and all five guys have to go to the boards, it hurts our running game."
The Seahawks also have three scorers with averages in the low teens, Butler and 6-5 guard Mike Labat at 13 points, and point guard Blaine DeBrouwer with 15 points, as well as 7 assists.
Harris said the Howard-DeBrouwer pairing at point guard was the "key matchup of the game." DeBrouwer, a 6-1 senior, has been one of Harris' favorite projects and most frequent objects of praise.
In other 5-A playoff action:
Mater Dei (26-0) vs. Compton (15-9) at Compton College--Last time these teams met, in December at the Tournament of Champions, the Monarchs won, 55-42. Little has changed except that Angelus League champ Mater Dei added forward Mike Kelly to the starting lineup, and he has performed well enough to become a first-team all-leaguer. The Monarchs, with Tom Lewis averaging 31.9 points and 11.8 rebounds a game, is the top-seeded 5-A team.
Compton, the Moore League's second-place team, is led by guard Barry Heads, who averages 15 points a game. He has averaged 21 in the last six contests, but he scored just 11 in the earlier game against the Monarchs. Compton forward Vincent Davis (6-5) averages a team-high eight rebounds a game, and 6-7 center Jarvis Helaire has signed a letter of intent to the University of Portland.
In 4-A action:
Glendale (25-0) vs. Capistrano Valley (22-5) at Saddleback College--The Pacific League champion Dynamiters are not only the top-seeded team in the division, but they have a 50-game winning streak extending back into summer league play when they beat Mater Dei, Cleveland and Long Beach Poly in a three-day period. Their starting front line averages 6-7. Center Jan Svoboda (6-8) has signed a letter of intent to Cal, while point guard Rich Grande, a 20-point-per game scorer, has accepted a scholarship to USC.
The Cougars have four players with scoring averages in double figures, led by guard Gregg Bujnovsky with 15.2. Other key players include Nathan Call, one of Orange County's most talented point guards with 9.5 assists per game and forward Tom Manley, the team's top rebounder with 9 per game. Capistrano Valley, the South Coast League's third-place team, will, as usual, employ a strong pressure defense and powerful fast break.
Dominguez (21-4) vs. Newport Harbor (24-3) at Orange Coast College--The Dons, champions of the San Gabriel Valley, are seeded third in the division. Forward Curtis Williams (6-5) averages 14.5 points a game, and has accepted a scholarship to St. Mary's, while guard Rod Palmer, a 14-points-per-game scorer, has signed a letter of intent to UCLA.
Newport Harbor Coach Jerry DeBusk says his Sea View League championship team is "definitely the underdog," because its superior bulk spells lesser speed. Point guard Chuck McGavran is more than capable with 15.6 points and 8 assists per game, and forward Alan Fraser contributes aggressive inside play and eight rebounds a game.
In 3-A action:
Katella (21-4) vs. Damien (20-8) at Glendora High School--The Knights represent Orange County's last competitor in this division. But with 19 straight playoff appearances to their credit and 6-8 Bob Erbst averaging 19.0 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, they are as able as any and generally taller than Damien, the Baseline League's third-place team. Like the Knights, third-place finishers in the Empire League, Damien is a deceptive No. 3 team, having finished just a game behind the co-champs, one of which was top-seeded Pomona.
The Spartans' Efren Leonard, a 6-1 senior guard, averages 20 points a game, and forward Kevin Partington contributes another 17. Leonard and forward Rick Neault split the rebounding chores with about eight per game apiece.