In the postgame press conference, Atherton Sacred Heart girls' basketball Coach Mike Ciardella said that Mater Dei--the team his had just defeated--had the best athleticprogram in the state.
Did Ciardella know what he was talking about, or was he just blinded by the winter fog?
Mater Dei excels in football and was the first school in state history to have both its boys' and girls' basketball teams playing for a State title in the same year. Much of Mater Dei's reputation revolves around excellence in those two high-profile sports. But the best athletic program in the state?
After the second trimester of The Times Orange County's all-sports competition, the Monarchs have the highest cumulative score among local schools (245.2 points) and have surpassed Edison (210.3), which dropped to second place.
The all-sports competition is designed to identify the county's best all-around athletic programs in two enrollment classes: large school (1,200 or more students) and small school (fewer than 1,200).
At the end of the school year, the totals for the fall (six sports, 240 points), winter (five sports, 200 points) and spring (10 sports, 400 points) will be totaled to determine large- and small-school champions.
"It would be nice (to win) because some of the sports get overshadowed because of the success of football and basketball," said Gary McKnight, Mater Dei boys' basketball coach and athletic director. "At Mater Dei, we strive to be the best we can be, whether it's cheerleading or band or whatever. Just to be up there at the top is very satisfying because it means the kids and coaches are working together, and it's nice to see the overall program being rated so high."
Mater Dei was in a similar position last year and dropped from second place (235.7 points) to eighth (288.3) after the spring.
Football and basketball are responsible for 119.3 of Mater Dei's 245.2 total points; the other eight sports average 15.7 points. It might not seem like much, but that average would place Mater Dei fifth among large schools through the winter season.
And in that context, Mater Dei's overall performance is noteworthy so far.
"Our problem is, with our facilities, we have a lot of programs (tennis, swimming, water polo) off campus," McKnight said. "I think that has some drawbacks in the program.
"Girls' softball has been successful, but they practice every day over in Irvine. Our swim teams practice at Orange Coast College. We have one baseball field and a one-court gymnasium. Athletically, I think we do an amazing job for what we have. People come on our campus looking for a big-time athletic stadium and facilities, and it's pretty humble pie."
Los Alamitos won the large school competition last year and Corona del Mar won for small schools. Both are still in the hunt this year.
But there's been a change among the small schools. For the first time in the two years of the competition, Corona del Mar isn't leading.
Instead, Brea Olinda applied a full-court press.
Brea earned nearly the maximum number of points in girls' basketball--39.4 of a possible 40--and had a very strong showing in girls' soccer (30 points). Despite trailing Corona del Mar by 22 points through the fall grading period, Brea took a 17-point lead going into the spring. All that with only four points from its wrestling team.
At this time last year, Corona del Mar held a 26.4-point lead over Brea.
But Corona del Mar was overtaken after getting only a combined 7.5 points from three sports--boys' and girls' soccer and wrestling--that yielded 28.5 last year. That opened the door for Brea, which won four league titles and a seventh consecutive Southern Section championship in girls' basketball.
"Corona del Mar has a good program, and I have lot of respect for the job they do down there," Brea boys' Athletic Director Ron Hampton said. "It's a feather in our cap to compete favorably with somebody like that."
Here's a look at how Brea weaved its surprise in the scoring totals after the winter sports season.
* Boys' basketball: The Wildcats finished 19-9 for a .678 winning percentage (and that translates to 6.8 points in the scoring scale); they won the Orange League title (earning 10 points), but got no points for the playoffs because they did not reach at least the quarterfinals. Last year, they scored only 2.4 points. Total: 16.8.
* Girls' basketball: The Ladycats were 29-2 (9.4 points), won the league title (10 points) and won the Southern Section title (20 points). Total: 39.4.
* Boys' soccer: The Wildcats were 19-4-4 overall (7.8 points) and won the league title (10 points). Total: 17.8
* Girls' soccer: The team was 19-3-5 overall (8 points), won the league title (10 points) and reached the section semifinals (12 points). Total: 30.0.
* Wrestling: The Wildcats were 2-3 in league dual meets (4.0 points). Total: 4.0.
In all, Brea earned 107.9 points, the third-best total over the winter.
"Everybody knows we have a girls' basketball program, everyone knows we have an outstanding physical plant here, that Brea's state of the art, but athletics is a competition that has to be won on the field and on the floor," Hampton said. "(The students) excel in the classroom and it's nice to know that we are being recognized as one of the best overall athletic programs in the county.
"The consistency of the two soccer programs and the girls' basketball program are a given," Hampton said, "but the boys' basketball program went from dead last to first, and that was a big help."
Despite Corona del Mar's fall-off in sports other than basketball, it still earned five more points overall than last winter. The Sea Kings probably won't go down easily, either; they have solid boys' tennis, swimming and baseball programs.
Brea will try to hold off Corona del Mar with its strength coming from boys' track and field, and the swimming and baseball programs.
Brea finished third last year, behind Corona del Mar and Laguna Hills.
The best winter performance belonged to Mater Dei, which reaped a scoring bonanza of 122.1 points--only one point less than it scored in the fall with an additional sport.
The Monarchs flexed plenty of muscle, bulked up by a girls' basketball team that went 28-2 and a boys' team that was 36-1; both won Southern Section titles. Scoring stops after the section championships, so neither team received additional points for reaching State title games. The basketball programs received some additional support from a girls' soccer team that won the South Coast League title and reached the section quarterfinals.
There were two other notable winter performances by schools that scored more than 100 points.
Woodbridge jumped from 25th to seventh by scoring 109.4 points, in large part because the girls' basketball and boys' soccer teams won section titles.
Fountain Valley was in last place among 36 large schools after the fall sports, but scored 105.6 in the winter and moved into 14th place.
Only one team scored the maximum 40 points--Calvary Chapel wrestling, which finished as undefeated section champion. Calvary Chapel is 11th among small schools--same as after the fall sports.
For Mater Dei to win the all-sports title, it must do better this spring than last. Although the Monarchs are likely to pick up some points in baseball and softball, they earned only 13.3 points last year in the other eight spring sports.
Edison, with a strong girls' track and field team, will try to pass Mater Dei and hold off Los Alamitos and Esperanza.
Los Alamitos is again poised to repeat last year's large-school championship run, though the Griffins will have to make up a greater deficit. Los Alamitos (180.5) is again in third place, but must make up 29.8 points to surpass Edison and 64.7 points to pass Mater Dei. The Griffins overcame a 20.8 deficit last year and beat Esperanza (which was in fourth place going into the spring) by 1.4 points.
Los Alamitos has strong swimming, tennis and softball teams, and Athletic Director John Barnes is hopeful his program can win again.
"It's tough to be at the top of your game in all sports year after year, and to me, that's what makes (this award) even more prestigious than winning in just one sport where you have a great program," he said. "It's the only award I know of that says something for your whole athletic program, girls and boys, top to bottom.
"Last year I don't think it quite had the impact on us because it was new, but each year, I think it will become more prestigious--I'm sure of that. I've referred to it quite a bit this year at the award banquets."
Esperanza is again in fourth place (173.6) and is primed with outstanding boys' and girls' track and field teams and a traditionally strong baseball program.
Woodbridge's strong performance this winter put the Warriors in position to stage a major upset. Although a longshot, seventh-place Woodbridge (157.4) is among the county's best in softball, boys' and girls' swimming, boys' tennis, and boys' and girls' track and field. A charmed performance in those sports could make it close.
Enrollment numbers are provided by the Southern Section at the beginning of the school year and do not include the freshman class. Also, Servite/Rosary has been returned to the Small School Division as each school's enrollment numbers were already doubled by the section to reflect the schools' all-boys and all-girls status.
A Guide to the Top 20
Here is the key for categories. Values are rounded to nearest 10th. Rounding might create slight discrepancies between sum of individual figures listed and total.
Fall--Carryover from fall sports. BB--Boys' basketball. GB--Girls' basketball. BS--Boys' soccer. GS--Girls' soccer. W--Wrestling.
Large School Top 20
School Fall BB GB BS GS W Total 1. Mater Dei 123.1 39.7 39.6 14.1 24.7 4.0 245.2 2. Edison 137.8 7.4 26.5 21.8 5.7 11.0 210.3 3. Los Alamitos 107.9 26.3 2.5 6.7 22.0 15.0 180.5 4. Esperanza 108.5 10.2 17.8 11.0 6.1 20.0 173.6 5. Katella 115.2 26.5 3.0 9.4 4.0 6.0 164.1 6. Sunny Hills 100.0 3.1 0.4 26.2 15.6 15.0 160.3 7. Woodbridge 48.0 25.7 39.7 37.4 2.7 4.0 157.4 8. University 92.1 2.4 17.2 16.3 15.5 10.0 153.4 9. Villa Park 93.7 10.2 10.4 10.0 7.9 15.0 146.6 10. El Toro 82.8 3.3 3.5 17.8 10.6 23.0 141.0 11. Foothill 108.3 9.8 2.5 4.7 10.4 2.0 137.8 12. Trabuco Hills 85.3 21.3 6.4 4.0 14.5 0.0 131.5 13. Santa Margarita 53.2 27.0 3.3 15.7 29.9 2.0 131.0 14. Fountain Valley 21.2 25.0 29.7 34.5 12.4 4.0 126.8 15. Tustin 75.6 35.3 3.6 5.3 2.9 0.0 122.6 16. Marina 49.6 1.7 26.5 2.1 39.8 2.0 121.6 17. Garden Grove 54.6 15.4 16.3 10.0 10.3 11.0 117.5 18. Dana Hills 89.9 7.4 1.9 9.8 6.3 2.0 117.2 19. Capis. Valley 39.3 8.6 7.2 29.5 11.3 20.0 115.9 20. Valencia 77.5 8.3 3.3 10.0 12.3 2.0 113.4
Small School Top 20
School Fall BB GB BS GS W Total 1. Brea Olinda 121.3 16.8 39.4 17.8 30.0 4.0 229.1 2. Corona del Mar 153.3 33.6 17.6 3.9 3.5 0.0 211.9 3. Newport Harbor 143.9 3.2 26.9 6.7 4.0 11.0 195.6 4. El Modena 105.2 10.2 3.9 13.9 29.7 30.0 192.9 5. Laguna Hills 107.2 10.7 11.8 4.6 25.3 20.0 179.6 6. La Habra 111.8 7.8 24.9 10.9 3.0 4.0 162.4 7. Servite/Rosary 97.6 21.8 14.3 8.5 14.3 0.0 156.5 8. Orange Lutheran 91.7 3.0 13.3 12.2 10.3 10.0 140.5 9. El Dorado 68.0 11.8 25.7 17.5 13.1 4.0 140.1 10. Pacifica 70.6 15.7 14.8 17.0 18.0 2.0 138.1 11. Calvary Chapel 67.4 25.5 2.9 0.0 0.0 40.0 135.7 12. Laguna Beach 100.7 12.8 1.4 12.7 5.5 0.0 133.1 13. Ocean View 55.9 11.2 25.2 2.1 18.7 2.5 115.7 14. Cypress 45.4 17.8 4.2 14.6 17.5 15.0 114.4 15. Troy 42.3 10.7 25.3 2.7 13.2 18.0 112.2 16. Estancia 36.9 30.7 12.1 11.3 7.9 0.0 98.9 17. Los Amigos 66.2 4.6 4.6 2.5 1.0 15.0 93.8 18. Sonora 41.7 26.6 2.6 12.4 10.4 0.0 93.7 19. Costa Mesa 90.3 3.1 21.9 5.3 3.5 14.5 90.3 20. St. Margaret's 44.9 27.1 11.4 1.4 0.0 0.0 84.8