Two days after Christmas, the Corona del Mar High boys' basketball team is off to San Diego. More is in store for CdM than some sightseeing down south.
The Sea Kings are competing at The Holiday Classic, the prestigious tournament that is in its 21st year at Torrey Pines High. The four-day event features some of the top programs in the ESPN RISE national rankings: No. 11 Long Beach Poly; No. 21 Taft of Woodland Hills; No. 46 Lincoln of San Diego; and No. 48 Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland.
CdM might get a shot at one of these elite teams if it can win the play-in game on Dec. 27. Getting to the national division bracket will not be easy as the Sea Kings (6-2) face Compton (6-3), the CIF Southern Section Division II-AA runner-up last season.
The game against Compton is set at 11:05 a.m., but Coach Ryan Schachter is not looking too far ahead.
The Sea Kings are at the North-South Challenge on Wednesday at El Toro High, where they play Tesoro (8-2). One good thing, Schachter said, about the showcase game against the No. 5-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A preseason poll, is that it starts at 11 a.m.
"After that game, they're done," said Schachter, who is giving his players time off from basketball during the holiday season. "I won't see them again for a few days."
When the Sea Kings, led by Northern Arizona-bound senior Danny Cheek, return, they had better be ready for an up-tempo game against the Tarbabes.
One team Compton, ranked No. 1 in Division II-AA, has faced so far is Price of Los Angeles. Price is a favorite to win the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA title. The Sea Kings moved up to the division this season, much to the dismay of Schachter.
The contest against Compton will show Schachter where his Sea Kings are in relation to Price, which beat the Tarbabes, 66-57, in a nonleague game last week.
"In my opinion, they're the best team in the state," Schachter said of the Knights, last season's Division IV-AA champions. "Our division, just like last year [in Division III-A], is the toughest division, beside Division I-AA.
"We have the talent to make a run [at a section title] like we did last year, [playing a] close game in the quarters [against Gahr of Cerritos]. If the playoffs started today, no we wouldn't [be able to], but the great thing is [the playoffs] don't start for another month and a half."
That is why the trip to San Diego is more business than pleasure. Two CdM seniors, forward Marcus Bradley and guard Clayton Ragsdale, are hoping to gain the attention of college coaches.
A huge number of Division I coaches, from the upper-echelon programs to mid-majors, will be on hand evaluating players. This is a perfect opportunity for Bradley, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Beaumont, and Ragsdale to show their abilities.
Bradley, who is averaging around 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, said Montana State has already offered him a scholarship and UC Irvine and West Point have shown interest.
Schachter said a big-toe injury suffered by Ragsdale before the season has slowed him down early on. Ragsdale shared Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year honors with Cheek last season.
The Battle of the Bay in wrestling did not disappoint for the third straight year.
A total of 10 points have decided the last three matchups.
Newport Harbor played host to Friday's dual meet against CdM and it came down to the wire again. The Sea Kings prevailed, 37-30, after 215-pounder Cody Forrest clinched the win with a pin in the event's final battle.
"It means a lot," said Forrest after helping CdM beat Newport Harbor in the rivalry meet for the second straight season.