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Rancho Santiago Looks to Take Familiar Course

If Rancho Santiago continues on the path to repeating as the men’s state basketball champions, the Dons will have to travel some well-worn ground.

Rancho Santiago (30-2) plays host to Santa Monica (22-11) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the second round of the Southern California Regionals. Rancho Santiago, the top-seeded team, dispatched San Bernardino Valley, 124-104, in the first round Saturday.

Santa Monica, the 16th-seeded team, beat El Camino, 82-73, Saturday.

Wednesday’s meeting will be a repeat performance for the teams.

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Rancho Santiago ran past Santa Monica, 103-84, as sophomore forward Erik Martin scored 32 points and had 11 rebounds in the second round of the Rancho Santiago Holiday Tournament in December.

A Rancho Santiago victory Wednesday would mean a rematch with the winner of the Cerritos-Los Angeles City game.

Cerritos defeated Rancho Santiago in overtime, 95-92, in November. Rancho Santiago beat LA City, 109-84, in the championship game of the Holiday tournament the night after defeating Santa Monica.

Three other county teams--Cypress, Fullerton and Saddleback--have road games at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Cypress (22-10) travels to Antelope Valley (25-5) to take on one of the top players in the state in forward J.R. Rider. The 6-foot-5 transfer from the University of Kansas is averaging 35 points.

Fullerton (16-15) pulled off a mild upset of Pasadena, 96-91, and will face powerful Ventura (29-4). The second-seeded team has the state’s top rebounder in Lester Neal, a 6-6 forward who averages 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Saddleback (18-11) gets another shot at Imperial Valley (28-3), the fifth-seeded team. Saddleback lost to the Arabs, 89-83, in December.

Baseball doesn’t always require undivided attention and that’s a good thing for Cypress second baseman Sean Drinkwater. Last Tuesday, while playing his position in a game against Allan Hancock, Drinkwater saw someone breaking into his truck, which was parked just outside the fence along the left-field line at Cypress.

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The action also caught the attention of Cypress left-fielder Abijah Alastra, who, without calling timeout, ran to the fence near Drinkwater’s car. Alastra talked to the suspect through the fence. Teammate Tom Puppe, who was sitting on the bench, also noticed the disturbance and raced across the field and outside the fence.

Puppe detained the would-be robber until campus security and the Cypress police arrived to make the arrest.

“I can’t believe we could catch the guy during the game,” Drinkwater said. “I’m just very lucky.”

There were a couple of predictions made last week that are worth a mention.

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When Orange Coast baseball Coach Mike Mayne spent some time evaluating his team after a victory over Los Angeles Valley on Wednesday, he also mentioned something about the start of conference last Saturday.

“We have a chance to be a really good team next season,” he said. “But I think we will beat (conference favorite) Riverside this Saturday, just because that is the game the kids are really thinking about.”

Orange Coast, picked to finish fourth in the conference, beat the Tigers, 8-5.

Minutes before the Saddleback basketball game with College of the Desert, a reporter asked for College of the Desert’s record.

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As he was told it was 17-14, Saddleback guard Greg Reynolds happened by the scorer’s table during a layup drill and quietly said, “17-15.”

Reynolds’ statement became true when the Gauchos won, 107-93.

Community College Notes

Octavio Medina, Rancho Santiago’s second baseman, had a solid week at the plate. Last Tuesday, he set a school single-game record with six hits in the Dons’ 25-2 thrashing of MiraCosta. Medina, a freshman from Santa Ana High School, came back Saturday to go two for four in a conference-opening 8-2 victory over Cypress. Medina was eight for 11 in two games, raising his average from .375 to .427. He also had seven RBIs in the two games and has 18 for the season hitting lead-off. . . . Todd Blyleven had started the season 3-0 and allowed only one earned run in his first 22 innings for Cypress. But things changed in a hurry Saturday when he started against Rancho Santiago in an Orange Empire Conference opener. Blyleven, a freshman right-hander, was tagged for six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings in the 8-2 defeat. His earned-run average went from 0.41 to 2.55. . . . Cypress pitcher Noe Najera, a sophomore left-hander, has made an oral commitment to attend North Carolina State.

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