The Canoga Park boys' basketball team was supposed to make a run at a City Section 4-A title this year, but 14 games into the season those expectations appear way off.
The Hunters (8-6) have lost three of four games. Canoga Park's losses have come by an average of 15 points. Included was an 88-56 trouncing by Palisades three weeks ago. The teams play a rematch tonight at Canoga Park.
"We make teams look three times better than they actually are," Coach Ralph Turner said.
"I have to take the blame. I haven't been the same aggressive coach as I have been in the last two years. We didn't work hard on the track [in the off-season], didn't work hard in the gym."
Until this week, the Hunters practiced only three times in more than a month.
After losing back-to-back games to Bakersfield and Los Angeles in late December in the Best in the West tournament, Turner knew what he wanted to do.
"You do like the Lakers do when they go to Hawaii for a week and [then] you come back ready to go," he said.
For Turner, the season started Monday with his no-nonsense attitude resurrected.
"We're gonna turn this thing around," Turner said.
Stepping up: Perhaps the biggest shocker of the Southland high school boys' basketball season took place last month at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic, one of the nation's most prestigious tournaments.
In a semifinal game, Harvard-Westlake routed Santa Ana Mater Dei.
No knock against Harvard-Westlake, which is The Times' top-ranked team in the Valley and Ventura regions, but Mater Dei was No. 1 by most accounts in all of Southern California.
But the victory wasn't the biggest surprise.
The score was 64-38, the worst defeat for Mater Dei since Coach Gary McKnight took over 15 years ago.
"We refer to Mater Dei as 'the Program,' so when they walked into the gym with their 25 players, seven coaches and group of trainers, we knew we couldn't be considered in the same class," Harvard-Westlake Coach Greg Hilliard said. "Even during the warm-ups, they're an impressive group. We felt privileged to have an opportunity to see what we were made of. The next time I looked up at the scoreboard, we were up something like 19-2."
Jason Collins had 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots to pace Harvard-Westlake. Kevin Augustine, Mater Dei's best player, made only three of 15 shots and finished with 10 points.
McKnight, in typical fashion when he's losing, went into a rage in the closing minutes. He yelled at the person handling the game clock, and he yelled at his players. He didn't have anything to say to Hilliard after the game.
"Our enjoyment of winning certainly was increased by seeing the reaction it caused on the other side of the court," Hilliard said.
Newton and the law: Newbury Park center Jim Newton, playing for the first time this season, scored seven points for the Panthers in a 57-49 loss to Royal in a Marmonte League basketball game Wednesday night.
Newton, a 6-foot-9 senior, recently was reinstated after having been suspended from the team for an off-court incident.
Kingpin: Senior Roland Aldabert of Highland, 25-3 at 125 pounds, last week set a new school record with 144 career victories, breaking Roger Izzo's record of 141 from 1992-95.
Highland (14-4), which launched its program in 1991, is three dual-meet victories shy of 200. The Bulldogs, who have won four Golden League championships, are 197-44-1 under Coach Mike Young.
Stuart Young, the coach's son, is 20-4, including 14 pins, at 160 pounds.
Ray Torres of Royal is undefeated in 19 matches at 160 pounds and won at the Las Vegas, El Modena and Colton tournaments.
Kickback: After finishing sixth in the Marmonte League last season, the Newbury Park High boys' soccer team was not considered a title contender.
But the Panthers (8-3, 1-1), who play host to Simi Valley today at 5:30, have been a surprise.
Newbury Park, led by forward Alan Milin and defender Alan Carr, won the Lancaster tournament and lost to Hawaii state champion Kamehameha on penalty kicks in the semifinals of the Royal tournament.
The Panthers are helped by a supporting cast with an international flavor. Midfielder Pawel Gago speaks fluent Polish. Midfielder Jacob Chavarria recently moved to Newbury Park from Denmark. And defender Wolfgang Moje is an exchange student from Germany.