The basketball race in the Marmonte League is finally starting to heat up.
The race for second place, that is.
With every team expected to be cannon fodder for highly regarded Simi Valley High this season, the real race is for the league's other two playoff spots.
In a game that featured the two teams regarded as the best of the rest, Thousand Oaks moved into second place with a 58-50 victory at Camarillo on Wednesday night.
The Lancers (5-7 overall) improved to 3-1 in league play, their only Marmonte defeat coming against Simi Valley.
Camarillo (7-6), which plays at Simi Valley on Friday, fell to 2-1 in league play.
"I was real pleased with our work ethic," Thousand Oaks Coach Ed Chevalier said.
He should have been. The Lancers outrebounded Camarillo, 41-23, and outshot the Scorpions from the field, 42% to 31%.
"Thousand Oaks played good defense. They out-hustled us to the ball. They came at us with the kind of commitment we've been showing," Camarillo Coach John Harbour said. "We had a chance to get away from everybody and now we're right back in the pack."
The Scorpions let the game get away from them early. They missed their first seven shots, fell behind, 7-0, and trailed, 16-9, after one period as Kevin Martin scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the quarter for the Lancers.
Camarillo came back to within three in the second period, and trailed, 28-23, at halftime.
But the Scorpions missed their first five shots of the third quarter and Thousand Oaks' lead ballooned to 41-29. The Lancers settled for a 44-34 advantage after three periods.
Martin, who was dogged all night by Camarillo's Chris Sorich, came alive again in the fourth period to squelch the Scorpions' final rally. After the Lancers' lead slipped to six points, the 6-2 senior guard hit three consecutive jump shots and reserve guard Kip Jim Brown sank one as Thousand Oaks pulled out to a 57-47 lead with less than two minutes to play.
Martin was not pleased with Sorich's defensive tactics.
"He did a good dirty job as far as I was concerned," Martin said. "I just took what was there."
Which was plenty.