Brea Olinda girls' basketball Coach Jeff Sink got a call the first week of December that took him by surprise. He picked up the phone. As Sink recalls it:
Voice: "Will you be staying with us again and how many rooms do you want?"
Sink: "Who is this?"
Voice: "This is the hotel in Oakland you stay with."
Said Sink, the first-year coach whose team's 53-49 loss to Woodbridge Saturday prevented it from going to the State finals for the first time in seven years: "When the hotel calls you three months before the playoffs, you know you're in a different program. Don't even talk to me about pressure."
For once, Clay McKnight, Mater Dei guard and hoop junkie, is sick of basketball. At least, watching it.
The last two seasons, the Monarchs had been eliminated in the Southern California Division I regional final. It left McKnight with plenty of free time in front of the television.
This year, he's not going to have time to channel surf. He'll be busy Saturday, playing Oakland Fremont in the State title game.
"This is better," McKnight said. "I was getting sick of watching March Madness."
Mater Dei last won a boys' basketball State title in 1990 when the Monarchs, featuring sophomore guard Reggie Geary, defeated San Francisco Riordan, 62-60, to win the Division I crown.
Mater Dei's last appearance in a State final came three years ago, but the Monarchs lost to Alameda St. Joseph and future Dallas Maverick guard Jason Kidd, 59-37, at the Arco Arena in Sacramento.
That Monarch trip didn't begin on the right note.
"There was a mix-up with the vans so we were stuck waiting at the airport for three hours," Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said.
Three years ago, Mater Dei flew to Sacramento the day of the game. This time, they are flying up to Oakland Friday, St. Patrick's Day. So does McKnight have any special items on the itinerary?
"Buena Vista could be in the plans," McKnight said.
Buena Vista is a famous San Francisco cafe that claims to have invented Irish coffee.
The county's best boys' volleyball teams will play in the Orange County Championships this weekend at Marina and Huntington Beach high schools.
Two-time Southern Section Division I champion Huntington Beach, led by Stanford-bound Jeremy Bart, leads a competitive field in the Division I bracket, which will hold its championship Saturday at Marina High.
Among the other teams competing in Division I are San Clemente, Capistrano Valley and El Toro.
The weekend's heavy rains wreaked havoc with the baseball tournament schedules, but some have managed to reschedule the games despite most teams beginning league play this week.
Fountain Valley will play Irvine in the Loara tournament championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday in Glover Stadium. Laguna Hills will play Loara in the consolation final at 3 p.m.
The Newport Elks tournament championship game--Mater Dei at Tustin--has been rescheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday. The Costa Mesa tournament championship game--Century at Santa Ana--has been rescheduled for 3:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The Irvine Invitational track and field meet also was postponed because of rain. It has been rescheduled for Saturday, March 25, at Irvine High.
Beginner's luck? Freshman Gerald Laird of Rancho Alamitos had never pitched in a high school game until he stepped on the mound against Pasadena Marshall in the consolation bracket of the Duarte tournament last week.
Chances are he'll get another chance after giving up no hits and striking out 10 in the Vaqueros' 11-0 victory. The scheduled seven-inning game went only four innings because both coaches agreed to end the contest after reaching the time limit, but Laird still will be credited with a no-hitter.
"I mostly threw the fastball and I was placing it well," said Laird, whose previous mound experience was in Little League and Pony League, and who first developed his arm throwing to his grandfather, Gerald Sr.
"It is the best game I've ever thrown; the strikeouts surprised me," Laird said. "It would have been better if we could have played longer, but they decided to stop the game."
El Toro lost most of its key players from last season's South Coast League boys' volleyball championship team, and now it is another man short.
Bill Coblentz, one of the two returning starters, is out for two weeks with a broken bone in his foot, El Toro Coach Mike Jagd said.
Outside hitters Coblentz and Steve Hilbert are the lone returners who saw significant action last season on a team dominated by seniors. El Toro came within one point of reaching the Division I championship match, losing a five-game match to eventual champion Huntington Beach.
The Chargers graduated The Times' player of the year, Ryan Mariano, who is at Long Beach State, setter Todd Steinert (Brigham Young) and middle blocker Chris Jacobson (Pepperdine).
"Our team this season is long on practice experience but short on game experience," Jagd said. With the addition of junior Matt Mauney and setter Steve Nelson to the lineup, Jagd still has high hopes.
"This team might be more athletic than last season's team," he said. "I have a feeling that down the road this team will be very good."
Orangewood Academy is enjoying its first season of athletic competition. After the boys' basketball team finished strong to reach the Division V-A semifinals, the boys' volleyball team has started fast.
The Spartans are 4-0 with 5-9 outside hitter Jeff Calantas and 6-7 middle blocker Micah Lloyd leading the way. Lloyd was also a key member of the basketball team.
* Staff writers Chris Foster, Mike Itagaki and Mike Terry contributed to this story.