Many would call it ironic. But, actually, it just serves to remind that the sphere of influence spread by Lou Cvijanovich in 31 years at Santa Clara High can't be underestimated.
Tom Roanhaus, third-year coach at Long Beach St. Anthony, will bring his team to Ventura College on Friday night for a Southern Section 2-A semifinal playoff game against Santa Clara.
But Roanhaus is no stranger to Santa Clara, Cvijanovich, or Ventura County for that matter. He attended St. Anthony grammar school in Oxnard--a Santa Clara feeder school--and graduated from Hueneme High in 1976. Roanhaus spent his youth looking up to Lou Cvijanovich.
"I grew up five minutes from Santa Clara," Roanhaus said. "I believed it then and I believe it now: He's the best coach I've ever seen at the high school level. It's that simple. He's the best."
Roanhaus had the distinction of beating the best in the Simi Valley tournament last season as St. Anthony crushed Santa Clara, 70-52. St. Anthony, which also bears the nickname Saints, featured All-American guard Darrick Martin, who averaged 33.4 points a game.
The edge, without question, has shifted to the Saints from Santa Clara. Martin now starts in the backcourt for UCLA. And Shon Tarver, a 6-foot-4 scoring machine, now starts for Santa Clara. Last year Tarver was at Rim of the World.
"Tarver does a hell of a lot for that squad," Roanhaus said. "We'd like to concentrate on some of their other guys, but we have to worry about Tarver."
Among the other guys for Santa Clara (21-3) are beefy 6-7 forwards Bubba Burrage and John McGill, whose physical style of play sometimes makes them seem even larger. Flashy point guard Art Santana is perhaps the Saints' most improved player.
St. Anthony's tallest player is 6-3 forward Kevin Johnson, but being outsized shouldn't bother this team. St. Anthony plays in a league of big guns.
In fact, the El Camino Real League reads like a who's who of perennially strong parochial schools--St. Bernard, St. Monica, St. Anthony, Verbum Dei, Serra, Pius X, Bosco Tech.
St. Anthony finished third with a league record of 7-5 and is 12-11 overall, having lost to powers Lakewood, Loyola and Long Beach Wilson in nonleague games. The Saints dropped both meetings with league-champion St. Bernard and split with St. Monica, which has advanced to the 5-AA quarterfinals.
Still, Roanhaus expects Santa Clara to be as tough as any team St. Anthony has faced.
"They have size and experience," Roanhaus said. "Ventura College is like a home floor for them. The only possible advantage we have is that we might be a little quicker."
The best St. Anthony players are leading scorer Alan Aragon (15.1 points per game), a 6-3 returning starter, and Oscar Encinas (14 ppg), a 6-2 forward. Point guard Mike Smith is the best defensive player. Encinas and Johnson are the top rebounders.
In the playoffs so far, St. Anthony defeated Valley Christian, 74-67, and Cantwell, 68-55. Valley Christian was an at-large team from the Olympic League and Cantwell was the second-place team from the Santa Fe League and owner of a 19-4 record before facing St. Anthony.
Santa Clara, the top-seeded 2-A team, had a first-round bye and easily topped St. Bonaventure, 77-53, last Friday in the second round.
"Santa Clara kicked our tails," St. Bonaventure Coach Marc Groff said. "We're not in the same league with them."
Despite St. Anthony's impressive schedule, Santa Clara is a clear favorite. But should his team lose, the St. Anthony coach won't be suffering any Roanhaus blues.
"I'm just happy to be playing back in the (Ventura County) area," Roanhaus said. "My parents live in Oxnard.
"In fact, my dad is the only St. Anthony Saints' fan glad we're playing at Ventura College because now he doesn't have to drive to Long Beach to see the game. I have two sisters in the area and lots of old buddies.
There may even be a postgame beer at Sam's Saloon (owned by Cvijanovich's son, Sam) to unwind.
"Every time I go back to Oxnard, I stop at Sam's Saloon," Roanhaus said. "Sometimes Lou is there and he always buys me a beer."
Sam's is sure to be full of Santa Clara boosters after Friday night's game. Maybe Roanhaus should join the festivities only if his team falls to Santa Clara.