The Preps / Scott Howard-Cooper : State Finals Won't Play in Southland for a While

In the four years that the state basketball tournament has been played at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, attendance has averaged in the neighborhood of 12,200, with a high of 13,800 in 1984, when Long Beach Poly beat San Francisco St. Ignatius for the Division I title. Those are very good numbers, especially since arena capacity at the time was said to be 13,335.

By comparison, attendance at the Sports Arena was 6,919 for John Williams and No. 2 Crenshaw against Eric Holloway (Arizona State) and No. 1 Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland in 1983, the only year the state finals were held in Southern California.

That should answer any questions as to why they will not return for a while.

"If I was a gambler, I'd say it will not be back within the next five years," City Commissioner Jim Cheffers said. "At least."

The problem in Southern California apparently stems from provincialism. Example A is a comment made by Coach Gary McKnight of Santa Ana Mater Dei before the Monarchs' game with Crenshaw last week. "This is the state championship," he said. "The one in Oakland is a token."

That was hardly a token appearance last season by Logan of Union City, which took favored Crenshaw into overtime before losing.

Said Cheffers: "There has got to be an attitude change about the sectional finals not being the ultimate, that winning the state tournament is the ultimate."

Northern California has a solid hold on the event, with proper fan support and a contract. This is the second of a five-year agreement with the Oakland Coliseum and, with capacity up to 15,000, ticket sales have been going well. Reportedly, 1,480 courtside seats costing $8 have been sold out for three weeks, long before the matchups were determined.

Part of that success results from experience. Organizers there had been staging a similar major tournament, the Tournament of Champions, for 34 years before the state tournament began in 1981. That brought together the best teams from the region and generated fan support, which merely carried over when the Southern, City and San Diego sections joined in.

"When you have the same type of activity for about 30 years, a great deal of interest will be there," Cheffers said. "It's just kind of automatic, like, 'When can I get tickets for the next tournament?'

"We (Southern California) have to build up an interest in it that will attract a large audience, and that takes time. What's this, our fourth year of this? They've been doing it for 30 years."

For what it's worth: Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland, Crenshaw's opponent in the state Division I championship game Saturday at Oakland, competed in the Chaminade tournament at Canoga Park in December, and its only loss in three games was to Cleveland, 75-61.

Eleven days ago, Crenshaw beat an improved Cleveland team for the City 4-A title, 95-79.

Hold your horses: Chino is the top-ranked girls' Division II team, but the Lady Cowgirls are trying to take in stride the recognition from Cal-Hi Sports and wins in the Southern Section 2-A title game and last Saturday's Southern Regional. They want to make sure they earn it Saturday in Oakland against Novato.

"We're ranked No. 1, but we're not No. 1 yet," Coach Joe Murillo said. "That has just been a name up to this point, just a poll. But we want to make it mean something."

And then they really want it to mean something.

"If we win, I think we'll own the city for a while," Murillo said.

Chino has a 31-1 record, the only loss having been to Pasadena Muir. Candida Echevarria is averaging 19 points a game, Stephanie Dykstra is averaging 17 and Jeanine Jones is at 11 points a game. But the defense, led by Echevarria and Aggie Moons, deserves just as much attention.

The ballgame: Something just didn't feel right about the basketball used during the first half of Saturday night's Crenshaw-Mater Dei game at the Sports Arena, and with good reason. It was actually a girls' ball, which is two ounces lighter and one inch smaller in circumference.

"I didn't know that it was a girls' ball, but I could feel something different about it," said Mater Dei forward Stuart Thomas, who made only 6 of 21 shots from the field and 8 of 20 free throws. "It didn't feel right. I couldn't get a touch with it."

Monarch guard Tom Peabody, on the other hand, detected the difference right away.

"I knew something was wrong because I can't palm a regular ball," he said. "And I could palm this one."

Prep Notes In Saturday's Division II championship game, Hacienda Heights Wilson will play Aptos, a team that has won 31 straight games, including the Northern Regional final against previously undefeated Hayward Mt. Eden, the No. 1 team in the state at that level.

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