When Simi Valley High plays Santa Clara, the basketball program to which all other Ventura County programs are compared, the historical implications will be the furthest thing from Bob Hawking's mind.
The Simi Valley coach's 14 years of continuous service in the area is second only to Lou Cvijanovich's 30 at Santa Clara. Simi Valley has won two consecutive Marmonte League titles and is well on its way to a third. The Pioneers have reached the Southern Section semifinals in each of the past two seasons.
The Saints, meanwhile, have made the Frontier League their personal playground, taking eight of the past nine titles. During his tenure, Cvijanovich is 561-193, including eight Southern Section championships.
It would appear to be a natural rivalry. The teams, however, will meet for the first time Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Santa Clara.
"It's kind of like us and Cleveland," Hawking said. "The game is probably long overdue. We've been the two most successful programs in Ventura County for a while."
Hawking, however, shies away from any contrived coaching duels.
"Lou's created an unbelievably successful program, and he's done it over a long period of time," he said. "He's a legend, and he deserves to be so. He's been a solid contributor to every kid that's gone through that program.
"You don't really focus on the other coach. It still comes down to Simi Valley versus Santa Clara, not Bob Hawking versus Lou Cvijanovich."
The Pioneers appear to be better equipped for that kind of showdown. All-American center Don MacLean averages more than 34 points and 14 rebounds a game and forward Shawn DeLaittre more than 21 points. Guard Butch Hawking runs a show that has averaged 88 points in five league games and has yet to lose a game in California.
Simi Valley's three losses in 17 games have come in out-of-state tournaments. The Pioneers are ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section 4-A Division and have suddenly found a stingier defense to go along with a powerful offense.
"We've just got to get better defensively, and we are," MacLean said. "We've got so many weapons offensively, we're going to score our points."
Santa Clara is ranked No. 6 in the 2-A Division despite its 10-7 record, a tribute to Cvijanovich's willingness to play the toughest teams he can find before the start of league.
The Saints have yet to lose a game against a 2-A opponent this season.
"They're going to be a test for us," MacLean said. "We need some good ballgames to get ready for the playoffs, and this will provide us with that. They're going to be a test for us."
But not a history test.
Leg work: Nate Conner was having difficulty believing the diagnosis. Doctors had told him that his ankle was broken and that he could not walk on it.
So why was Conner still able to play basketball?
"It feels completely healed. I can run around and do things," said Conner, a junior guard at Grant. It took doctors a few weeks to tell Conner what he already knew--that the injured left ankle was strong enough to have the cast removed Thursday.
Conner suffered the injury during practice in mid-December when he went up for a rebound and landed awkwardly. "I could hear it pop," said Conner, who averaged 17 points in Grant's first three games.
The injury, initially diagnosed as a bad sprain, later was determined to be a fracture.
Conner was forced to wear a cast that he was told could not be removed until Feb. 5. Unhappy with the diagnosis, Conner sought a second opinion. "The doctor said it can come off," Conner said. "We're going to re-X-ray it and put a brace on it."
Although he has to undergo rehabilitation that could last as long as four weeks, Conner expects to be playing soon.
Grant Coach Howard Levine is not as optimistic, however. "He could play a couple of games this season but it's highly unlikely he'll be at 100%," Levine said.
Conner is not concerned. The doctors said the same thing.
Scouting report: After his team battered Monroe, 93-50, on Wednesday, Birmingham Coach Elliot Turret made a fast break to Chatsworth to scout San Fernando, Birmingham's opponent tonight. Turret watched the Tigers roll over Chatsworth, 75-64, to remain undefeated in Northwest Valley League play.
"They have the most talent of anyone in the league," Turret said. "As far as being athletes--running, jumping, mobility and coordination."
San Fernando (10-4, 4-0 in league play) indeed appears to be fulfilling early predictions of winning the league title. But Birmingham is far from being counted out.
The Braves (6-7, 2-2) can move to within a game of first with a win tonight at San Fernando.
"I think we have as good a chance as anybody in the league," forward Jason Moore said.
Guard Greg Maxwell said of San Fernando: "They're beatable.".
Maxwell and Moore have been Birmingham's big Braves. Maxwell, a 5-11 senior, has scored in double figures in every league game and is averaging 20 points a game in league play. Maxwell scored 28 points and had 7 assists against Monroe.
Moore, a 6-0 senior and a Times All-Valley second-team wide receiver, scored 20 points against Monroe and is averaging 10 points a game in league play.
Shrine Shuffle: Thousand Oaks Coach Bob Richards, who guided the Lancers to the Coastal Conference championship, was named Thursday to coach the South team in the Shrine football game July 23 at the Rose Bowl.
He will share duties with Fontana Coach Dick Bruich, whose Steelers won the Big Five Conference title.
"It's a tremendous honor to work with the athletes at this level," Richards said. "I'll be coaching players who no doubt will become All-Americans."
Richards was named after Granada Hills Coach Darryl Stroh turned down an offer to coach in the game. Players will be chosen Feb. 3 by a panel of sportswriters.
Add Stroh: Stroh, who guided the Highlanders to their first City 4-A title since 1970, declined the offer, saying that his family has booked a Caribbean cruise and will be out of town the date of the game. Stroh also cited his past experiences with all-star games.
"I've done some baseball all-star games in the past, and I'm not real comfortable working with kids I don't have any control over," said Stroh, who also coaches Granada Hills' baseball team.
Sutton simmers: Providence Coach Paul Sutton was sitting in his office the day after a loss to Campbell Hall when one of his players walked in.
"Coach, I had a dream about the game," the player said.
"It was a nightmare," Sutton responded.
Providence's 44-31 loss to the Vikings earlier this month prompted yet another sleepless night for Sutton and his team. Providence is 1-11 overall and its average margin of defeat is 17.1 points. The Pioneers' lone victory came against San Pasquel (Ariz.) in a vacation tournament, meaning the Pioneers are 0-for-California.
"This is probably the most frustrating team I've ever had," Sutton said. "As a coach, you start to doubt yourself."
Providence's problem is its shooting. Even before Providence lost to Crossroads, 57-25, and Bel-Air Prep, 72-43, last week, the Pioneers were shooting 33.7% from the field and 49% from the free-throw line.
"It's almost like there's a lid on the basket," Sutton said.
According to Sutton, Providence's trouble is not poor shot selection. "Of the 510 shots we've attempted this year, 490 are within the offense."
You tell me: Nobody has really found a way to stop Oakwood's human highlight film, junior forward Mitch Butler, who is averaging 33.4 points and 15.4 rebounds a game. Oakwood Coach Roz Goldenburg is just glad he is on her side.
"You don't know how glad I am I don't have to think about having to stop him," she said. "I enjoy not having to think about it."
Oakwood (12-1, 4-0) plays host to Liberty League rival Holy Martyrs (8-4, 3-0) at 7:30 tonight in a battle for first place. Holy Martyrs' Coach Varant Vartabedian laughed when asked how he planned to stop the 6-5 Butler.
"If you know, tell me," Vartabedian said. "I don't know how to stop him. We're going to try to keep him from getting the ball."
Staff writers Chris J. Parker, Vince Kowalick and Steven Fleischman contributed to this notebook.