RIVERSIDE - Things are heating up.
It is early in conference play but there are some big games on the horizon this week. None is bigger than tonight’s No. 2 Fullerton vs. No. 3 Santiago Canyon game (6 pm tipoff in Fullerton). We are hard pressed to remember a year where so many early conference games carried such importance. And it isn’t just the Orange Empire Conference. A number of programs face must-win contests this week if they hope to keep their conference championship hopes alive.
In this week's poll, loses by Allan Hancock, Columbia and Sequoias as well as keys wins by Fresno City, Ventura and others shook up the poll. Fresno jumped to No. 5 this week after wins over Columbia and Sequoias. East Los Angeles has quietly moved into the top four. Southwestern climbed into the top 10. Chaffey, however, was the biggest mover as the Panthers jumped an amazing 14 spots. Four programs — Ventura, Cerritos, Riverside and Reedley —return to the CCCMBCA Top 30 poll this week. Each are back in the conversation for their respective conference titles.
But for how long?
1. San Francisco (16-0) — San Francisco continues to light up the scoreboard in running its win streak to 16 games. The Rams, who last in the finals last season to Fullerton, has scored 100-plus points in the seven games this season and 90 or more in all but three games. San Francisco has allowed 70 points or more just once this season. The Rams lead the state in offense (98.1 points per game) and are fifth in defense (63.5). Their margin of victory plus 35 points. This week, the Rams host 7-9 San Mateo and visit 10-6 Foothill.
2. Fullerton (15-0) — Fullerton kicks off an important stretch of games tonight when the Hornets host No. 3 Santiago Canyon in a 6 pm game that can be viewed here — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9BlnRbFGIg. After Santiago Canyon, the Hornets visit Orange Coast and then hosts Riverside, which has won five straight and breaks into the top 30 this week. Next week, Fullerton faces another key game when the Hornets visit Saddleback. Whomever loses tonight will have little time to mourn as big games keep coming.
3. Santiago Canyon (16-0) — Santiago Canyon has been on an offensive tear, scoring 100-plus points in three of its last five games. Don’t expect such an offensive performance tonight against Fullerton. The Hornets are the best defensive team in the state, allowing its opposition just 54.7 points contest. Antoine Jenkins, the Hawks’ leading scorer (24 points pg) and one of the best in the state, will need to have an efficient game as the Hornets figure to bet their chances of winning on shutting Jenkins down. For a Hawks’ victory, Santiago Canyon will need solid games from Paulo Araujo and A.J. Garrity, the rest of Hawks who don’t get the headlines.
4. East Los Angeles (17-1) — East Los Angeles has won 13 straight games since losing to Copper Mountain by two points in December. With the wins, the Huskies have steadily climbed the state rankings. This week, East LA comes in at No. 4, replacing Columbia who fell after suffering a blowout loss to Fresno City. The Huskies vs. 8-8 Compton before returning home to meet No. 23 Long Beach City.
5. Fresno City (13-3) — Fresno City once again showed that the Central Valley Conference title will go through Fresno. Winners of 18 straight conference titles, the Rams routed the two teams — Columbia and Sequoias — who figured to snap that streak. This week, Fresno visits 0-16 West Hills Coalinga and then hosts 8-8 Porterville.
6. Yuba (15-3) — Yuba’s win streak has reached eight games which helped the 49’ers move up one slot this week. Last week, Yuba closed out the week by taking down No. 17 Mendocino in a key Bay Valley Conference game last week. This week, the 49’ers host 4-13 Napa Valley and then take on 5-13 Contra Costa at Diablo Valley College.
7. Santa Monica (12-4) — Santa Monica held on to its No. 7 ranking thanks to victories over Bakersfield and Canyons. The Corsairs have won four straight games. This week, Santa Monica hosts an inconstant 6-10 Antelope Valley team and then visit a dangerous Citrus (10-6) team. The Owls begin the week riding a four-game win streak. Citrus scored wins over LA Valley and beat Bakersfield in overtime last week. Both LA Valley and Bakersfield were expected to compete for the conference title.
8. Southwestern (13-4) — Southwestern climbs three slot this week after taking control of the Pacific Coast Conference. The Jaguars begin the week with a 1 ½ game lead on Palomar and San Diego City — two programs Southwestern has already dispatched. This week, Southwestern gets 2-14 Cuyamaca on the road and 6-10 San Diego Mesa at home.
9. Santa Rosa (14-4) — Santa Rosa has six straight and 10 of its last 11 games. The Cubs hold a 1 ½ game lead on American River in the race for the Big 8 Conference title and will look to add to its lead. Santa Rosa visits American River on Friday, in the Cubs’ only game this week.
10. Columbia (15-1) — Columbia tumbles six slots this week after being manhandled by Fresno City last week. The loss to Rams snapped Columbia’s 14-game win streak. But most of the all the loss dealt the Claim Jumpers a major setback in winning the Central Valley Conference title. This week, Columbia hosts Reedley, which begins the week undefeated in conference and tied with Fresno for the conference lead, and then visits West Hills Lemoore.
11. Sequoias (12-4) — Sequoias championship hopes also suffered a setback last week with the Giants’ 72-53 loss to Fresno City. Sequoias figures now to be in a battle with Columbia for possibly second place. This week, Sequoias visits Merced and then host Reedley, a team that also has its sights set on a possible runner-up finish.
12. San Diego City (12-4) — San Diego City remains at No. 12 this week after its conference title hopes took a hit, with the Knights’ 91-85 loss to Southwestern last week. This week, the Knights face a three-game week. San Diego City will host San Diego Miramar on Monday, travel to No. 25 Palomar on Wednesday and then host MiraCosta on Friday. The Wednesday game at Palomar is a key game for both programs as both programs try to remain in striking distance of Southwestern.
13. Redwoods (14-3) — Redwoods climbs one slot as the Corsairs beat Butte in a key Golden Valley Conference game last week. Redwoods, winners of nine straight, begins the week tied for the conference lead with 7-11 Siskiyous. Redwoods will try to maintain its momentum as the Corsairs pack their pages for three of four on the road. This week, Redwoods visits 6-12 Feather River on Thursday and 4-11 Lassen on Saturday.
14. West Los Angeles (13-3) — Like Redwoods, West Los Angeles climbs three positions this week. After losing consecutive games, the Wildcats opened Western State-South play with victories over Glendale and Antelope Valley. In their only game this week, the Wildcats host No. 16 Los Angeles Valley on Saturday. Pressure will be on LA Valley to eek out the win in order to keep its conference championship hopes alive.
15. Chaffey (12-5) — Chaffey continues its assault on the poll, moving up 14 slots as the Panthers take the early lead in the race for the Inland Empire Athletic Conference title. Chaffey, winners of six straight, have won its first five conference games. Among the wins is victories over San Bernardino, the preseason favorite and previously ranked Copper Mountain, Cerro Coso and Mt. San Jacinto. This week, Chaffey will host Barstow. Next week, Chaffey faces a Monday-Wednesday-Friday week which includes a showdown with second-place ad No. 16 Desert on Monday in Palm Desert.
16. Desert (12-4) — Desert, winners of six of seven games, begins the week a half game behind front-running Chaffey. The Roadrunners begin a four-game stretch that may very well determine their chances of winning the conference title. Desert is at Mt. San Jacinto on Wednesday and then at Copper Mountain on Saturday. Either is capable of ending the Roadrunners’ win streak and put a dent in their championship hopes. If Desert survives this week things don’t get any easier as the Roadrunners face three games — vs. Chaffey, at Cerro Coso and home to Victor Valley next week.
17. LA Valley (13-3) — LA Valley’s title hopes took a hit when unranked Citrus scored a 10-point victory over the Monarchs. LA Valley will begin the week looking up at Santa Monica, West LA and Citrus in race for the conference title. This week, LA Valley hosts Canyons, losers of three of its last four, and then travels to No. 14 West LA in a key game.
18. Mendocino (13-4) — Mendocino slips two slots this week after the Eagles dropped a 65-56 game to Yuba, the conference favorite for the title. Mendocino will begin the week tied with Los Medanos for second place. And on Wednesday, the two will meet at Los Medanos, Mendocino will also travel to Solano.
19. San Bernardino Valley (11-5) — San Bernardino Valley moves up spot after snapping a three-game losing streak. Obviously, the Wolverines’ potential is keeping them inside the top 20. But for how long? SBVC begins the week tied for fourth place in the Inland Empire Athletic Conference. A preseason favorite, the Wolverines have lost twice in conference (Chaffey and Desert). SBVC travels to unranked Cerro Coso on Wednesday and then hosts a hot Victor Valley team on Saturday.
20. Butte (10-7) — Butte’s title hopes took a hit, and in doing so slipped a slot in this week’s poll. The Roadrunners, the preseason favorite for the Golden Valley Conference title, have lost five of their last seven and are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The race is far from over as Butte visits 7-11 Siskiyous and hosts 10-10 Shasta this week.
21. Saddleback (11-6) — The Orange Empire Conference is shaping up to a four-team race. Three teams begin the week undefeated in conference play (although there will be one less with Santiago Canyon and Fullerton going at it tonight). The Gauchos begin the week a game behind surprising No. 30 Riverside who has won its first five conference games after going 5-7 in the preseason. Saddleback, however, can close that gap tonight when the Gauchos visit Riverside. The Gauchos, who have a bye Wednesday, then travel to Irvine Valley for their inter-district rivalry game with Irvine Valley. Irvine Valley fell out of this week’s poll after losing four of its last five games.
22. Las Positas (12-4) — Las Positas remains at No. 22 this week after home victories over Ohlone and Foothill last week. The Hawks, winner of three straight, begins the week in a dead heat with San Francisco in the Coast North. Las Positas hits the road this week, visiting 2-12 Canada and 10-6 Chabot. Chabot begins the week a game behind the conference leaders.
23. Long Beach (12-4) — Winners of five straight and seven of its last eight, Long Beach City climbs three slots this week. The Vikings continue nonconference play this week with two more South Coast crossover contests. Long Beach City hosts unranked Pasadena on Wednesday and then visits No. 4 East Los Angeles on Friday. Next week, the Vikings begin division play where Long Beach and No. 28 Cerritos figure to once again continue its battle for the divisional crown.
24. Ventura (11-7) — Ventura returns to the Top 30 this week. The Pirates opened conference play with consecutive wins, one being a shocking four-point victory over preseason favorite and previous No. 9 Allan Hancock — on the road. This week, Ventura welcomes second place LA Pierce (10-7) before taking to the road to square off against 9-9 Moorpark.
25. Palomar (12-4) — The Comets lands at No. 25 this week after falling to conference-leader Southwestern. The loss snapped Palomar’s 10-game win streak, drops the Comets into a tie for second place with San Diego City and more important, 1 ½ behind Southwestern in the race for the Pacific Coast championship. Palomar has three games this week, including a very important game on Wednesday when San Diego City visits San Marcos. Loser of the Palomar-San Diego City game figures to be out of the running for the conference title, not mathematically, but realistically. The Comets also travel to San Diego Mesa and Imperial Valley.
26. Allan Hancock (13-5) — Allan Hancock took it on the chin last week, losing twice — to Moorpark by 9 and then to Ventura by 4 at home. The loses cause the Bulldogs to lose their bite, free falling 17 spots in the CCCMBCA Poll. Allan Hancock begins the week tied with Santa Barbara for last place in the Western State-North. Losers of four of its last seven games, Allan Hancock hosts Oxnard Wednesday and then travels to Cuesta on Saturday. There is an urgency for the Bulldogs if they hope to win or at least share the division crown.
27. Los Medanos (13-4) — Los Medanos maintains its No. 27 ranking. Winners of four straight, the Mustangs remain in striking distance for the Bay Valley Conference crown. Los Medanos begins the week 2 ½ games behind Yuba. This week, the Mustangs hosts No. 18 Mendocino, which is a key game for both programs as they try to run down front-running Yuba. The Mustangs and Mendocino begin the week tied for second with 4-1 records. On Friday, Los Medanos travels to take on 4-13 Napa Valley.
28. Cerritos (9-7) — Winners of four straight, Cerritos reappears in the CCCMBCA poll. The Falcons are 7-3 in their last 10 games. Cerritos has played a brutal preseason schedule. The seven losses read like a who’s who of the CCCMBCA poll. The average point spread in those seven games is just nine points. Throw out the Falcons’ 24-point season-opening loss to Santiago Canyon and you can see just how competitive Cerritos is. As good as Cerritos is currently playing, look for the Falcons to run their win streak to six games after hosting 11-7 LA Trade Tech on Wednesday and Pasadena (9-9) on the road Friday. This all leads to showdown with No. 23 Long Beach City on January 24.
29. West Valley (10-6) — West Valley’s win streak has grown to four games, including a conference-opening win over Gavilan. This week, the Vikings travel to 4-13 Hartnell and then return home to host Monterey (6-12). Monterey begins the week tied with Cabrillo at 2-0 in conference. Only Cabrillo and West Valley begin the week with an overall record above .500 in the Coast-South.
30. (tie) Riverside (10-7) — Riverside hasn’t been ranked the since the beginning of the season when the Tigers were ranked No. 29 in the CCCMBCA preseason poll. Riverside got off to a rough start, losing four of its first seven games. Riverside, however, has managed to win its first five Orange Empire Conference games, including a 15-point win over previous No. 24 Irvine Valley. That is the good news. The bad news is the Tigers face a week where they will see No. 21 Saddleback (in Riverside, tonight), No. 3 Santiago Canyon (in Orange, Wednesday) and then No. 2 Fullerton (in Fullerton, Friday). Riverside’s title hopes are on the line this week.
Reedley (11-5) — Reedley begins the week tied with Fresno City for the top spot in the Central Valley Conference. After dispatching Columbia and Sequoias, Fresno City is the odds-on favorite for its 19th consecutive conference title. Reedley, which opened conference play against two programs who have managed just two wins this season, faces a critical week as the Tigers hit the road for games against No. 10 Columbia (Wednesday) and then No. 11 Sequoias on Saturday. Consecutive losses will realistically eliminate Reedley from the discussion for the conference championship. Big, bug week for Reedley . . . as well Columbia and Sequoias. Everyone will be playing to stay within striking distance of Fresno City.
(Robert Schmidt, CCCMBCA)