Pairings for the Southern Section basketball playoffs won't be announced until Sunday, but the race for playoff berths heats up this week, the final week of the regular season.
Each of Orange County's 10 leagues will send three representatives to the postseason tournament, which begins Feb. 20 and concludes with division championship games Saturday, March 7, in the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Mater Dei High School became the first school in the county to clinch a league championship when the Monarchs beat St. Bernard Friday night for their 50th consecutive victory in the Angelus League spanning six seasons.
The Monarchs will likely be seeded No. 1 in the 5-A division playoffs if they beat rival Servite Friday night at Cypress College.
Bolsa Grande, Woodbridge and Marina high schools clinched ties for league titles and can claim championships outright with victories this week.
The most interesting playoff races are in the Sea View, South Coast and Sunset leagues, where 12 teams are vying for eight playoff berths.
The Freeway League concluded its regular season last week with Fullerton winning the title. The six-team league will hold a postseason tournament beginning Tuesday to determine its three playoff representatives.
Here's a closer look at the playoff picture in each league:
Angelus--The race here is for second and third after Mater Dei (8-0) clinched the title last week. Servite (5-3) plays host to St. Bernard (2-6) on Wednesday, then concludes the season with Mater Dei. St. Paul (4-4) plays host to Bishop Montgomery (1-7) on Wednesday, then travels to Bishop Amat (4-4) on Friday. Look for Servite to finish second and the winner of the Bishop Amat-St. Paul game to finish third.
Century--Santa Ana (7-1) and Foothill (6-2) have clinched playoff berths. Santa Ana took a big step toward winning the title when it beat Foothill last week. The Saints travel to El Modena (3-5) Wednesday and Santa Ana Valley (3-5) Friday. Canyon (4-4) is in third place and the Comanches will likely need only a victory over Santa Ana Valley or Villa Park (1-7) this week to make the playoffs.
Empire--Katella (12-0), Los Alamitos (11-1) and Kennedy (9-3) have clinched playoff spots. For Katella, it marks the 21st consecutive year the Knights have qualified for the playoffs under Coach Tom Danley. Los Alamitos has a tough week, playing host to Kennedy on Wednesday and traveling to Katella on Friday. Don't look for any changes in the finishing order of the three schools.
Freeway--Fullerton (9-1) won the title, which means the Indians earned a first-round bye along with Troy (7-3) in the tournament. Fullerton also earned the right to play host to the finals of the league tournament on Friday night beginning at 6. Buena Park (4-6), Sunny Hills (4-6) and Sonora (4-6) tied for third. Sonora won a coin flip and will play host to La Habra (2-8), and Buena Park will play host to Sunny Hills Tuesday night. The winner of the Buena Park-Sunny Hills game plays at Fullerton, and the winner of the Sonora-La Habra game plays at Troy Wednesday night. The winners of those games play Friday for the No. 1 berth in the playoffs, and the losers play for the third and final spot.
Garden Grove--Bolsa Grande (8-0), La Quinta (6-2) and Los Amigos (5-3) have clinched playoff berths. Bolsa Grande can win the title with a victory at Garden Grove (2-6) Tuesday night. The winner of the La Quinta-Los Amigos game the same night will likely finish second. The league is playing Tuesday and Thursday this week.
Orange--Magnolia (7-1), Brea-Olinda (7-1) and Valencia (6-2) have clinched playoff spots. Brea has a tough week, traveling to Valencia Wednesday and Magnolia Friday. Magnolia looks like a good bet to win the title, playing host to Western (0-8) Wednesday, but this race is too close to call at this point.
Pacific Coast--Woodbridge (8-0) clinched a tie for the title when Trabuco Hills (6-2) was upset by Laguna Hills (5-3) last week. As all three have qualified for the playoffs, it's now just a matter of how they will finish. Woodbridge plays host to Trabuco Hills Friday and a victory would ensure the Warriors of the third seed in the 2-A playoffs.
Sea View--Corona del Mar (6-2) holds a one-game lead over Tustin (5-3), University (5-3) and Estancia (5-3). Corona del Mar plays host to University Wednesday and Newport Harbor Friday. Estancia has road games at Saddleback (2-6) and Tustin this week, which would seem to be a disadvantage, but visiting teams have won 17 of 24 games in league play. Who will win the title is anybody's guess, but one thing is for certain--a quality team will miss the playoffs.
South Coast--El Toro (6-2) and Capistrano Valley (6-2) share the lead, with El Toro playing host to Dana Hills (3-5) and Irvine (5-3) this week. The title has been won or shared by Mission Viejo and Capistrano Valley the past nine years. Capistrano Valley has a tough game at Mission Viejo (4-4) Friday. The winner of the Irvine-Mission Viejo game Wednesday at Irvine should finish third. Again, another quality team will miss the playoffs.
Sunset--Marina (7-1) has clinched a tie for the title, but four teams are vying for the two remaining playoff berths. Ocean View (5-3) holds a one-game lead over Fountain Valley (4-4), Edison (4-4) and Westminster (4-4) for second place. Only Huntington Beach (0-8) is out of the picture. There is a wild-card selection for the 5-A division, meaning that four teams could advance to the playoffs.
A standing-room-only crowd is expected at the Huntington Beach Union High School District office at 7:30 Tuesday night to discuss proposed budget cuts for next season. Proposals include eliminating full-time trainers in the district's six high schools and imposing a $25 fee for participation in interscholastic athletics and other extracurricular activities that require travel. The district is anticipating a decline of 800 students next school year. . . . For the second straight year, the Edison girls' soccer team tied a Southern Section single-season record with its 18th shutout. The Chargers' 1-0 victory over Ocean View last week tied the mark set by Claremont in 1985 and tied by Edison last year. . . . The 28th Orange County All-Star football game, sponsored for charity by the Brea Lion's Club, is scheduled for Friday night, July 17, in Orange Coast College's LeBard Stadium. The coaches will be announced on Feb. 19. . . . Former Corona del Mar basketball Coach Jack Errion will he honored at 7:30 on Thursday night in the Sea Kings' gymnasium. Errion posted a 199-60 record in 10 seasons at Corona del Mar and won two Southern Section 3-A titles. . . . Jerry Kindall, who guided the University of Arizona to its third NCAA College World Series baseball title last spring, will be the featured speaker at the sixth Orange County Baseball Coaches Clinic Saturday at 8 a.m. in Cal State Fullerton's University Center. Other clinic speakers include Cal State Fullerton's Augie Garrido, and Arizona pitching coach Jim Wing and speed training coach Kevin McNair. The clinic is free to all county baseball coaches. Guests are invited to watch the Cal State Fullerton-Arizona game that follows the clinic.