How does it feel to be a freshman playing for USC in the Rose Bowl?
Former El Toro High star Scott Ross, now starting inside linebacker for USC, provided the following insights:
On pregame nervousness:
"Well, my head didn't go wow or anything. I went into the game feeling pretty good, excited. I didn't want to get too nervous. I just concentrated on making it fun and not worrying whether I'd play a great game or not."
On the pep talk:
"Coach (Tom) Roggerman, our middle linebacker coach, gave us the pregame pep talk. He's a very emotional kind of guy. He told us this is what we all dream for, you know, all those things you'd think they say. Then Coach (Larry) Smith went around to each person, wishing them good luck, one at a time."
The difference between games at USC and El Toro High?
"I don't know. I go into the games pretty much the same way, it's just the guys around me are a lot bigger and stronger. But I was just as excited in high school games as at SC. The games are just as important. I still play the same way. I still love to tackle people."
On the enormity of the event :
"When you're in high school, you look up in stands and you see a lot of familiar faces. Here, you tend to forget there are 100,000 people watching, especially when you're getting up from a tackle and start doing that little dance after plays."
"We should have won."
Travels and tribulations: Area basketball teams found holiday traveling hazardous last week.
The threat of gang violence forced cancellation of the Seagull tournament in Absecon, N.J. before Mater Dei could play St. Nicholas of the Bronx, N.Y. in a semifinal game. Two nights before the semifinals, two gangs had a fight during halftime of Mater Dei's first-round game. A women was shot during the incident, but neither team was on the floor at the time.
The Monarchs did play St. Nicholas, ranked No. 1 by USA Today, in a nontournament game Tuesday at Villanova University, losing, 58-46.
El Toro found itself in somewhat of a tropical travel travesty at Hawaii.
Fifty-two Charger players, coaches and parents flew to Oahu for the Walter Wong tournament at Honolulu. Besides hoping to see some great basketball, the El Toro entourage was expecting eight relaxing days in the sun. But . . .
"It's been a complete nightmare," said El Toro Coach Tim Travers. "I'm not kidding. We've had horrible weather. There were floods, winds, mud slides, $29 million worth of damage. . . .
"We had five-hour flight delays, planes breaking down, lost baggage and rain that didn't stop until this morning (Saturday). And now they've told us they might have overbooked the flight, so I'm trying to get us on another flight right now."
Despite all their weather and airline problems, El Toro managed to play basketball. The team won two tough games before losing to St. Joseph of Alameda, 70-60, in the championship game. And El Toro's Eric Speaker and Brett Johnson were named to the all-tournament team.
Ocean View's trip is A-OK: Ocean View traveled to Raleigh, N.C. for the Raleigh Times Holiday Festival last week.
The Seahawks finished seventh in the eight-team tournament. They lost to top-seeded Carlisle High (Penn.) in the first round and to defending champion Broughton (Raleigh) in the second round.
Ocean View then defeated Osceola (Kissimmee, Fla.), 76-68. Craig Rice led the Seahawks with 30 points and 8 assists.
"The whole trip's been interesting," said Ocean View Coach Jim Harris. "We've really had no problems. The weather was great. We visited North Carolina and Duke. We met coaches and players from teams from all over the country.
"We were entertained by a guy who was on "Hee-Haw." They called him the Pretzel Picker because he plays guitar with an arm behind him. Then we had a pig picking, where they roast pigs and you pick the meat off to eat it. . . . All in all, it's been a great experience for the kids."
More telling travels: In a tournament at Las Vegas, Woodbridge lost in the third round, 72-60, to Rancho (Las Vegas). Adam Keefe scored 20 points in the game, and averaged 30.5 points in the three games.
"Everything went well as far as the traveling department was concerned," said Warrior Coach Bill Shannon. "I mean, we have no horror stories to tell about knives and guns or lost luggage, but we would have liked to have played a fourth game."
At the Fiesta tournament at Tempe, Ariz., University defeated Tempe, 65-60, for the consolation championship. Steve Stolzoff led the Trojans with 24 points and set a tournament free-throw record, hitting 16 of 16.
Mincing words: Long Beach Millikan Coach Bill Odell voiced his disapproval of a referee's call at the Katella tournament last week.
The referee "disallowed" a shot that was made a split-second after a whistle.
" Disallowed? " Odell said. "Only in Orange County are you going to hear a shot was disallowed. What's the matter with a simple doesn't count or no good ?"
Now that's discipline: Whittier Christian Coach Bill Cuccia had little to say to his players the Herald's 73-69 loss to Centennial at the Brea-Olinda tournament Wednesday night.
But Cuccia's message was loud and clear nevertheless.
Forty-five minutes after the loss--the third consecutive loss of the week--Cuccia had his team back at its gymnasium, starting one of the toughest two-hour practices in Cuccia's coaching career.
"It was the first time in my 12 years of coaching I ever had my kids practice on the same night after their game," Cuccia said. "But you have to understand, it's been four years since we've lost two games in row. And nine years since we've lost three (in a row). I felt we needed to get ourselves back together.
"When I told the kids they were going back to the gym, I think they were scared to death. But I had a lot of parental support. All the parents kept saying, 'Give 'em what it takes, Bill, go get 'em,' and all that."
After having extra-tough practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Cuccia scheduled one more for Saturday--New Year's Day. But that, Cuccia said, was tough only for the first 45 minutes.
"They were expecting another hard one," Cuccia said. "But we gave them a big pep talk and cookies instead. It was a real neat surprise for the kids."
And for the coach?
"I got laryngitis," he whispered.
Add Whittier Christian: Despite his team's loss, Erik Martin set a Brea-Olinda tournament single-game scoring record Wednesday night with 34 points.
Martin, a 6-foot 6-inch center/forward, is averaging 29.7 points, 14.3 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in 9 games this season.
Most impressively, Martin is shooting 74% from the field.
Brea-Olinda Coach Rick Jones has some high compliments for Sunny Hills, the seventh-ranked boys' basketball team in the county.
Sunny Hills (9-1) defeated Brea-Olinda, 73-64, for the Brea-Olinda tournament championship.
"I think the road to the CIF (Southern Section) will go through Sunny Hills," Jones said. "There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the better teams around. We were essentially the same team last year and we beat them by 18 at this tournament.
"They have just improved immensely. Steve White (Aztec coach) has done a tremendous job. Sunny Hills should be ranked in the top five. Without a doubt they're the most improved team in county."
Said White: "Actually, I didn't think we played that well. We have a lot of colds and little things. I thought we were kind of flat."