At Poway High, the home of the San Diego Section 3-A boys' basketball champions for the last two seasons, it has been business as usual this week.
Sure, there's some excitement as the Titans get set to defend their title at 8:30 tonight in the San Diego Sports Arena against Serra, but for the most part it's been kind of ho-hum. After all, Poway was ranked No. 1 at the beginning of the year and most figured the Titans would win the championship again.
At Serra High, where the Conquistadors have been preparing for their first-ever section final, it is anything but ho-hum. Students and players alike are enjoying Serra's time in the limelight. Friday, the entire school took off some time from class for a pep rally.
"It's what we've all been striving for, a chance to play in the Sports Arena," Serra Coach Tom Williams said. "Our kids have been pulling for Poway all along because they're the No. 1 team. That's who they've wanted to play."
Serra, the City Eastern League champions, and Poway, winner of the Palomar League, are both 24-3 coming into tonight's final.
But the similarity ends there.
Poway has built a solid foundation over the past two seasons with a powerful inside game led by 6-foot 6-inch forwards Jud Buechler and Dominick Johnson. Guards Andy Byrne and Gary Anderson also started on the Poway teams that beat Patrick Henry, 57-51, two years ago in the final and defeated Morse last season for the section title.
The Titans were at their best in last year's championship game when they roared to a 43-19 halftime lead and went on to beat Morse, 87-63. If Poway wins tonight, it will become the first San Diego 3-A team to win three straight section titles.
"We don't talk a heck of a lot about things like that," Poway Coach Neville Saner said. "We know what we have to deal with and that is a very good Serra team. We know what we have to do in order to win another championship."
Whereas Poway has made the section final its home over the last three years, it is a different story at Serra.
The Conquistadors have no player over 6-4 and rely on the speedy hot-shooting threesome of seniors Deven Moran, Steve Smith and Anthony Moore. Serra looks to use its speed to its advantage by running whenever possible.
"We know that we can run the entire game and we don't know if they can," forward Matt Van Scyoc said. "Everybody knows that they have a good team, but we think we're pretty good, too."
Serra won its first City Eastern League championship two weeks ago by beating Morse twice in the final week of the season. The Conquistadors then defeated Mount Carmel and Sweetwater to reach the final.