While Saddleback enjoys the advantage of playing at home, three other Orange County men's basketball teams face difficult road games in Wednesday's second round of the Southern California playoffs.
Rancho Santiago (23-7) is relieved not be be going to Ventura, where the Dons have been eliminated from the playoffs each of the last two seasons. Instead, Rancho Santiago can stop for lunch in Ventura on the way to San Luis Obispo to play Cuesta (25-9) at 7:30 p.m.
This will be their second meeting this season. Cuesta beat the Dons, 109-100, in the first round of the Pasadena tournament on Dec. 15.
The winner advances to Saturday's regional final against the winner of No. 2 Cerritos (30-1) and No. 15 Imperial Valley (22-11).
Irvine Valley (22-11) has the task of going to No. 1 seeded Ventura (32-1) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Lasers are coming off a 113-84 victory over Grossmont in which center Keon Clark fell hard on his back early in the second half and didn't return because of spasms.
Clark, who is averaging 22 points and 20 rebounds, is expected to start Wednesday. The winner will play the Chaffey-Fullerton survivor.
Fullerton (14-18) will be on the road again looking for its second consecutive upset. Chaffey is 24-9.
The Hornets, the 25th-seeded team, trailed by as many as 16 in the first half before rallying to beat No. 8 Santa Monica, 72-64, Saturday.
Fullerton's Marcus Austin, a sophomore center, was a dominating force. He finished with 28 points, 19 rebounds and eight blocked shots. He has a Fullerton record 119 blocked shots this season. But all of Austin's contributions didn't come near the basket.
With about a minute left in the first half, Fullerton trailed, 39-23, and seemed ready to fold. But Austin made a three-pointer to help get the Hornets in position for the second-half rally.
Saddleback (26-5) hosts Antelope Valley (24-8) at 7 p.m. Wednesday as the Gauchos attempt to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season. The winner faces the winner of the MiraCosta (16-11) and Los Angeles City (31-1).
Women's basketball: Golden West earned its ninth consecutive trip to the State tournament with a 102-79 victory over Long Beach on Saturday. The Rustlers (29-5) take on San Mateo (24-4) at 6 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals at Orange Coast College.
The other opening games are: Sequoias (28-4) vs. defending State champion Los Angeles Harbor (30-6) at 2 p.m.; Merritt (36-1) and Canyons (30-5) play at 4 p.m. and Siskiyous (16-12) and Ventura (27-2) meet at 8 p.m.
The semifinals are at 6 and 8 p.m. Friday and the title game is at 7 p.m. Saturday. The State All-Star game is at 5 p.m. Saturday.
In their previous eight State tournament appearances, the Rustlers have won two titles (1990 and 1991) and reached at least the semifinal-round seven times.
Picklers: Cypress baseball Coach Scott Pickler wasn't sure what it would be like coaching his son, Jeff, this season.
So far, Jeff has made it pretty easy on his dad.
Jeff, a freshman second baseman from Foothill High, is hitting .403 (31 for 77). He went five for five and scored four runs in the Chargers' 19-3 victory over Fullerton in the Orange Empire Conference opener Saturday.
"Days like this make things easy at home," Scott Pickler said Saturday. "He's really pretty hard on himself and the other coaches pick me up so I don't have to worry about him too much."
Men's volleyball: After only one week of play, Golden West (4-0, 2-0) is the only undefeated team in the Orange Empire Conference.
But things didn't start so well in the first conference match Wednesday against Palomar.
The Comets won, 15-1, then Golden West rallied, 15-10, 15-9, 15-10. The Rustlers beat Irvine Valley, 11-15, 15-8, 15-11, 15-8, Friday.
Shadd Walker, a transfer from Irvine Valley and Phil Tifrea, had 17 kills each for the Rustlers against Irvine Valley, the 1993 State champion.
Softball: The Orange Empire Conference starts Wednesday with Fullerton at Riverside, Golden West at Rancho Santiago, defending champion Orange Coast at Irvine Valley and Saddleback at Cypress. All games are at 3 p.m.
Cypress, Fullerton and Rancho Santiago are considered the favorites.
Orange Coast's Damion Morbley finished his career at Orange Coast as the college's all-time rebounder. He had 13 in his final game to finish with 646. He passed John Vallely, who had 642 from 1966-68. Morbley finished with 1,150 points, second best all-time at OCC. Vallely tops the list with 1,538.