East L.A. edges closer to Santiago Canyon in the race for No. 2 in CCCMBCA poll

East Los Angeles College men's basketball
East Los Angeles College men's basketball

RIVERSIDE - Three weeks remain in the 2019-20 season and every conference championship is still mathematically in play, although a few are realistically claimed.

The Western State-South division is a four-team race — literally — as LA Valley, West LA, Santa Monica and Citrus all begin the week deadlocked at 6-2. Ventura can get a step closer with a win over Allan Hancock this week in the Pirates’ pursuit for the Western State-North title. The South Coast-South title is back in play with Cerritos’ surprising loss to Compton last week. The Orange Empire Conference is living up it to its history as one of the toughest titles to bring home. Santiago Canyon and Riverside remain deadlocked atop the standings, with Fullerton, the defending state champions, and Saddleback two games back.

In the north, Redwoods begins the week holding a one-game lead over Shasta. Preseason favorite, Butte is third, two games back with four games to play. The Coast-South race is like a hot potato game, there is always some new each week holding the top spot. This week, West Valley, Cabrillo and Monterey (we are surprised, too) each hold a share of the division lead. Fresno City continues to fight off the competition, and all the Rams have to show for it is a one-game lead on Sequoias. The two will square off on Wednesday. The Big 8 Conference was close after Diablo Valley shocked Santa Rosa. However, the Vikings then went out and set their boat and title hopes ablaze with a loss to Sacramento. Santa Rosa will begin the week with a 2 1/2 game lead.

The other conferences/divisions are pretty much spoken for.

1. San Francisco City (22-0) — What is left to say? Twenty-two in a row, state’s only undefeated team, two-game lead on Las Positas for the Coast-North title. The Rams area easily the best team in the north and will be the region’s top seed for the playoffs. There really isn’t much to say. Oh, they visit Skyline on Wednesday and San Mateo on Friday.

2. Santiago Canyon (22-1) – Santiago Canyon remains in fight with Riverside for the Orange Empire Conference title. Fullerton has faded and Saddleback is 0-3 vs. Santiago Canyon and Riverside. Both will begin the week two games back of the Hawks and the Tigers. In its only game this week, Santiago Canyon visits Golden West on Friday. Next week, though, Santiago Canyon hosts Fullerton and then hits the 91 freeway to Riverside.

3. East Los Angeles (22-) — East Los Angeles continues to extend its college-record win streak. Last week, it reached 18 and by the looks of the South Coast-North division it should reach 23 games. The Huskies, who have five games remaining, is headed to their third straight outright championship. Although, East Los Angeles begins the week with just a half-game lead on LA Trade Tech, the Huskies will only see one team with an overall record above .500. And that team is LA Trace Tech on Friday. In their first meeting, East Los Angeles skinned the Beavers by 21 points.

4. Fresno City (19-3) — Fresno City took another step to wrapping up its 19th consecutive conference championship with a hard-fought win over Columbia, Saturday night, 81-75. The Rams made 24 of 30 free throws in keeping its along atop of the Central Valley Conference. Six games remain in the conference season, but no looms as large as the next one – Sequoias on Wednesday. The Rams have a one-game lead on Sequoias, so this may be the Giants’ last chance to claim at least a share of the conference title. Fresno plays four of its final six games at home where the Rams are 6-0.

5. Yuba (20-3) — Yuba has won 13 straight games and is easily headed to the Bay Valley Conference title. The 49’ers have five games remaining against competition who open the week a combined 47-64.

6. Southwestern (19-4) — Southwestern, which has beaten San Diego City twice after scoring an 86-79 victory last Friday, is comfortably two games up on the Knights with five to play. The Jaguars visit third-place MiraCosta and fourth-place Palomar this week. In their first meetings, Southwestern beat MiraCosta by 23 and Palomar by 15.

7. Fullerton (19-3) — Fullerton has lost three of its last five games, including a shocking seven-point loss to Cypress last Friday. The first time these two teams meet, Fullerton won by 22 points. The Hornets, who are two games out of first place, have just five games remaining to make a move on Riverside and Santiago Canyon. This week, Fullerton hosts Golden West on Tuesday in its only game. After this week, the Hornets finish at Santiago Canyon, vs. Orange Coast; at Riverside and vs. Saddleback. Fullerton can still win or share the OEC title, but the Hornets will need to sweep the rest of their schedule.

8. Chaffey (18-5) — Chaffey continues to impress. The Panthers are a perfect 11-0 in the Inland Empire Athletic Conference and will begins the week with a three-game lead on the conference race with five to play. Mt. San Jacinto, after a rough patch, have come on strong to move into second place, but it is doubtful the Eagles have enough air under their wings to catch the Panthers . Chaffey can secure the conference title on Saturday with a win at Mt. San Jacinto.

9. Sequoias (18-4) — For all particle purposes, Sequoias’ conference championship hopes (even it is a share) comes down to Wednesday in Fresno City. The Giants were blown out at home by Fresno City (72-53) in their first meeting. We’ll see what the second meeting holds in store. Sequoias also hosts Merced this week.

10. Santa Rosa (17-6) — For 72 hours, Diablo Valley had Santa Rosa right where they wanted them. After the Vikings scored a 67-63 victory over Santa Rosa on Tuesdays, the Big 8 Conference was up for grabs. Only, Diablo Valley couldn’t hold its end of it, losing to Sacramento City 48 hours later. The Santa Rosa Cubs, however, emerged with a 78-70 victory over Modesto and when the Cubs emerged from the forest, they still hold a 1 ½-game lead on Diablo Valley with five games remaining. This week, Santa Rosa faces a challenge with road contests at Sacramento the San Joaquin Delta. Sacramento has quietly won six games in a row and SJ Delta, currently fifth, is playing for any chance of a post-season bid. ¬¬

11. Ventura (16-7) — Winners of seven straight, Ventura continues to lead the Western State-North division. With five games remaining, the Pirates hold a two-game lead over Allan Hancock, 2 ½ games over LA Pierce and three on Moorpark. Ventura can take a commanding lead on Wednesday when Ventura hosts second-place and preseason favorite Allan Hancock and then visits LA Pierce. A sweep this week would ensure the Pirates of at least a share of the title.

12. Santa Monica (16-6) — Santa Monica is one of four teams tied atop the Western State-South division. The Corsairs have six games remaining, including games against all three of the teams who share the conference lead this week. This week, Santa Monica hosts Canyons and then travels to take on Antelope Valley. Have a feeling we will be writing about this conference race until the final week.

13. San Diego City (18-5) — San Diego City’s championship plans took a hit after losing to Southwestern for the second time this season last Friday. The Knights are two games back of Southwestern with five games to play. San Diego City is probably looking over its shoulder now as the Knights hold just a one-game lead on MiraCosta for second place. This week, San Diego City hosts Imperial Valley in its only game.

14. Columbia (19-3) — Columbia has suffered just three losses this season — too bad they have all been in the Central Valley Conference. Columbia finds itself in a third-place tie with Porterville with six games remaining. The Columbia need to get over its disappointing loss to Fresno City quickly as the Claim Jumpers hosts Porterville on Wednesday before closing the week out at Reedley. A loss to Porterville would be devasting for Columbia who began the season among the state’s elite teams.

15. Riverside (15-8) — Since losing to Santiago Canyon, Riverside has run off four straight wins to remain in the battle for the Orange Empire Conference championship. The last time Riverside won the OEC championship was 2011. To win this one, the Tigers will need to survive a finish of Cypress, the Chargers upset Fullerton last week; (at) Irvine Valley, the Lasers are 7-3 at home, but struggles against the elite programs; (at) Saddleback, the Gauchos will be looking to emerge from its tie with Fullerton for third; Santiago Canyon, the Hawks will be looking to wins its first OEC men’s basketball championship; and Fullerton, the Hornets may be back in the championship hunt come the last game of the season.

16. Redwoods (18-4) — Redwoods had its 12-game win streak snapped last week when Shasta scored an 87-76 victory. Despite the loss, the Corsairs have maintained its hold on the Golden Valley Conference race. Redwoods, which has four games remaining, holds a one-game lead over Shasta. Shasta, which begins the week on a three-game win streak, holds a one-game lead on Butte for second place. Butte was the preseason favorite for the conference title. This week, the Corsairs hit the road for contests with Siskiyou (Thursday) and Butte (Saturday). Redwoods concludes the season at home against Shasta.

17. Los Angeles Valley (18-4) — Looks is back in the game. A four-game win streak, which featured wins over Santa Monica and Citrus, has Los Angeles Valley back in the game. The Monarchs are one of four teams tied for the Western State-South division lead. LA Valley is joined by West LA, Santa Monica and Citrus. Each team has six games remaining, many among themselves. This week, LA Valley gets Glendale and Canyons, before seeing West LA and Santa Monica next week. LA Valley and Citrus each have played each other twice, splitting their series.

18. West Los Angeles (17-5) — West Los Angeles , winners of four of its last five games, begins the week in a four-way tie for the conference lead (LA Valley, Santa Monica and Citrus). With six games left in the regular season, it is all hands on deck of the Wildcats. West Los Angeles has six games remaining, including games against Citrus, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

19. Las Positas (16-6) — The best race here isn’t for first place, but second between Las Positas, Foothill, Chabot, Skyline and San Mateo. The Hawks a game remaining against each of the four, so each game will be important to — all five programs. The Hawks begins the week a game up on Foothill and two games on the other three. Foothill’s best chance to catch Las Positas comes on Wednesday when Foothill visits Las Positas. On Friday, the Hawks host Canada.

20. San Bernardino Valley (16-6) — San Bernardino Valley has won seven of eight conference games, but that 0-2 conference start is coming back to haunt the Wolverines. San Bernardino Valley begins the week in third place, a game back of Mt. San Jacinto and 3 ½ behind conference-leading Chaffey. With six games to play, San Bernardino Valley’s conference championship hopes are fading. But second place is still in play. This week, the Wolverines hit the road for games at Copper Mountain and the dread three-hour plus trip to Palo Verde. Interestingly, San Bernardino Valley finishes the season at Mt. San Jacinto.

21. Saddleback (15-8) — Saddleback remains in the picture for the OEC title, but we aren’t feeling as confident after the Gauchos got plastered 111-86 by Santiago Canyon last week. Saddleback, which is two games behind the front runners and tied with Fullerton for second place, hosts Orange Coast and then visits Santa Ana before finishing with Riverside, Irvine Valley and Fullerton. Gauchos would need a lot of help to end up atop the OEC pile.

22. Allan Hancock (18-5) — Winners of five straight, Allan Hancock’s title hopes are still in play with five games to play. The Bulldogs face a must-win situation on Wednesday when they visit Ventura, the conference leader by two games over Allan Hancock.

23. Cerritos (14-8) — Well, we didn’t see that coming — a 19-point loss to fourth-place Compton has altered the landscape in the South Coast-South division. The loss snapped Cerritos’ nine-game win streak, and created a three-team log jam for the conference lead, along with Long Beach City and LA Southwest. This week, Cerritos hosts LA Southwest on Wednesday and then welcomes LA Harbor to Norwalk before trekking to Long Beach City on February 12. Next 10 days will be interesting.

24. Long Beach City (16-6) — Long Beach City is back in the thick of the South Coast-South division race after fourth-place Compton shocked Cerritos, 94-75. Cerritos’ loss has created a three-way log jam for first place, along with LA Southwest. Long Beach City has six games remaining, including a road contest against LA Southwest on Friday (and then another showdown with Cerritos on February 12).

25. Citrus (14-8) — You may have already heard the news (if you read all of the caps), Citrus begins the week in a deadlock with LA Valley, West LA and Santa Monica in the race for the Western State-South division. The Owls, like Santa Monica, are 8-2 in their last 10 games. Citrus hosts Bakersfield and then hits the road for a key game against West LA on Saturday.

26. West Valley (14-8) — After consecutive losses, West Valley has turned the tables to run off three straight victories. It was enough to pull into a three-way tie for the Coast-South division lead. Currently, there is six teams within two games of West Valley, Cabrillo and Monterey who are tied atop the standings. This week, West Valley has just a single game, vs. Hartnell on Friday. The Vikings will travel to Monterey (February 12) and Cabrillo to close out the regular season.

27. Sacramento City (16-7) — Sacramento City has won six straight games, and in doing so have climbed back into contention for a post-season bid. The Panthers who are tied with American River for third place is just a half game behind second-place Diablo Valley. Three of Sacramento City’s final games are at home, beginning with Tuesday’s game against first-place Santa Rosa. The Big 8 Conference could easily get five teams in the post-season, but nothing is guaranteed, so each of the next five games are important, including Modesto on the road Friday.

28. Diablo Valley (14-8) — Diablo Valley had them — for 72 hours. The Vikings shocked Santa Rosa on Tuesdays, but by Friday Diablo Valley was right back where they started the week — in second, 1 ½ games behind Santa Rosa. Diablo Valley had the Big 8 Conference abuzz after a surprising four-point victory over Santa Rosa. But the Vikings, however, ship took on water and eventually sunk as they lost to Sacramento, 66-58. Diablo Valley’s championships are still alive, but the Vikings’ chances of a second-place finish are also at risk as Sacramento and American River begin the week just a game back of the Vikings. This week, Diablo Valley hits the road for contests at Folsom Lake and Sierra.

29. Mt. San Jacinto (12-11) — Mt. San Jacinto is above .500 for the first time since November 6 when the Eagles were 3-2. It has been a tough year for head coach Patrick Springer and his Eagles. Mt. San Jacinto is on a three-game winning streak, tying its longest win streak of the season. The sudden outburst of wins has landed the Eagles in second place, three games back of Chaffey and a game in front of San Bernardino Valley with five games to play. This week, the Eagles travel to Victor Valley and then host Chaffey on Saturday, in what could be the conference clincher for the Panthers. Mt. San Jacinto needs a quality win to help their push for a post-season berth, Chaffey is the Eagles’ best opportunity.

30. (tie) Cabrillo (13-10) — Cabrillo’s loss to West Valley on January 29 created a log ja m atop of the Coast-South division. Cabrillo is one of three team who begin the week holding a share of the division lead. This week, the Seahawks host San Jose and Gavilan, before closing out the season at Monterey and home to West Valley.

30. (tie) Los Medanos (17-5) — Looks like second place for the second consecutive year for Los Medanos. The Mustangs begin the week with a two-game lead on Mendocino. While Los Medanos is still mathematically alive for the Bay Valley Conference, it is a long shot that the Mustangs can run down Yuba, which begins the week with a 2 ½-game lead on the Mustangs.

30. (tie) American River (12-9) — American River begins the week tied with Sacramento for third place in the Big 8 Conference. The Beavers have just one game this week at Modesto on Tuesday. After Modesto, American River has a streak of San Joaquin Delta-Diablo Valley-Santa Rosa. Will be interesting to watch, since the Beavers have beaten Santa Rosa and SJ Delta, but lost to Diablo Valley. Is it possible that the Beavers have a hand in wins this conference?

30. (tie) Foothill (14-8) – Foothill is just a game out of second place and on Wednesday the Owls have a chance to draw even with Las Positas. Foothill has won three straight games, but a fourth win would really improve their post-season possibilities. Keep in mind, Foothill is one game up on Chabot, Skyline and San Mateo. And with games remaining against each team, every game is important.

30. (tie) MiraCosta (14-9) — MiraCosta squeezes into this week’s poll. The Spartans begin the week in third place in the Pacific Coast Conference, just a game behind San Diego City for second place. The Spartans will need to come up big this week if they are to make a serious run at the Knights of San Diego City. MiraCosta get Southwestern on Wednesday at home. A loss will probably drop MiraCosta two games behind San Diego City with four to play.

(Robert Schmidt, CCCMBCA)