Saddleback secures sole possession of No. 1 ranking

California Community College Men's Basketball Coaches Association
California Community College Men's Basketball Coaches Association

(Robert Schmidt, CCCMBCA)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Losses by San Francisco, defending state champions and last week’s co-No. 1, and East Los Angeles created a bit of a shake-up in this week’s poll. Some teams, which were perfect last week, found themselves falling a spot or two as coaches tried to assess where to move No. 20 Las Positas (upset co-No. 1 San Francisco), Mt. San Antonio, unranked (beat East LA), Santa Rosa (fell to unranked SJ Delta) and where to drop East LA and how far San Francisco should fall as well as should Delta and Mt. San Antonio climb into the Top 20. In the end, it left some good teams out of this week’s poll. 

CCCMBCA State Poll (Jan. 23)
1. Saddleback (19-2) — Saddleback, last year’s state runner-up team, takes sole possession of the state’s No. 1 ranking this week. The Gauchos, who are riding a 14-game win streak, the longest in the state, will be tested this week when teacher and student clash on Wednesday. Former Saddleback player, Perry Webster will host his his former coach at 7 pm. Last year, Fullerton, which is ranked No. 7, lost to Saddleback, 66-65, at home (and then by 12 at Saddleback). Saddleback remains one of the best defensive teams in the state, allowing just 56 points a game. One coach, however, was unmoved by Saddleback’s recent play, voting El Camino-Compton No. 1 this week

2. San Francisco (19-2) — Despite falling out of a tie for the state ranking, San Francisco managed to maintain its hold on the north’s top ranking, edging Yuba. The Rams’ 91-90 loss to Las Positas at home snapped a 11-game win streak. This week, San Francisco continues a four-game road swing with stops at Ohlone (15-6, No. 11 in the regional poll) and at Chabot (4-16). The Coast-North has six teams (out of seven) with 11 wins or more and is looking to be a one of the best races in the state.  

3. Yuba (19-2) — Yuba, winners of 10 straight, nearly overtook San Francisco this week. Perhaps a stronger Bay Valley Conference would have swayed pollsters. The conference has just three teams with above .500 records, and one — Los Medanos — just moved into the red last week. The 49’ers have opened a 2 ½ game lead on Los Medanos headed into — ironically, a home game against Los Medanos on Wednesday. Yuba will also host 7-13 Solano this week. Los Medanos has quietly won six in a row, and a victory over Yuba would look awesome on its seeding sheet. Unfortunately, their last meeting resulted in a 20-point Yuba victory (90-70, Dec. 29).

4. San Bernardino (18-5) — Thanks to Yuba wrestling away a number of north #1 votes, San Bernardino falls one slot this week. But that should be the least of the Wolverines’ worries. The Saddleback-Fullerton game won’t be the only showdown this week. San Bernardino faces two big tests this week when the Wolverines visit #12 San Diego Miramar on Wednesday and then unranked Mt. San Jacinto on Friday. Only one of San Bernardino’s first three conference games has resulted in a win of 10 points or more (87-70 vs. Desert). Against, Palomar and MiraCosta, the Wolverines led both games by just two points at halftime, but second-half surges held off the opposition. Not sure San Bernardino should count on pulling off big second halves to hold off the likes of Miramar and Mt. San Jacinto. These have a chance to be barn-burner of games.

5. El Camino-Compton Center (19-3) — El Camino-Compton Center begins the week with the state’s second longest win streak at 12 games. The Tartars survived a scare last week when they managed to hold off Cerritos, 90-89. This week, El Camino hosts 9-10 El Camino and LA Southwest, which begins the week in a three-way tie with El Camino-Compton and Long Beach City for first place in the division. LA Southwest has won four of its last five games, including a shocking 74-73 win over Cerritos, which obviously allowed its disappointing loss to El Camino-Compton to carry over to its next game.

6. Fresno (17-4) — Don’t look now, but the Fresno players have discovered scoreboards have three digits. The Rams have been on a tear — scoring over 100 points in four of their last six games, including hanging 125, a state-high, on Cerro Coso. Tyus Millhollin had 31 points off the bench as Fresno played its reserves extensively. This week, Fresno, which begins a three-game home stand, against its three biggest conference championship hope threats —Sequoias (No. 13 in the north) and No. 20 Merced. The last time Fresno and Merced got together, the Rams dropped 119 points on the Blue Devils, which began Fresno’s run on 100-point games. 

7. Fullerton (16-5) — Fullerton has opened a two-game lead on Riverside for second place in the conference, but the Hornets have their sights set on the conference title. But wrestling it from No. 1 Saddleback, winners of the last five OEC titles, won’t be easy. Since losing to El Camino-Compton by 31 points (Dec. 30), Fullerton has been perfect — winning its first five conference games, including an 81-72 in Riverside last Wednesday. This week, it isn’t just Saddleback Coach Webster has to worry about as the Hornets also face Cypress, which is 5-2 at home this season, on Friday. How many times have we seen it — a team posts a big upset — only to lose its next game.

8. Feather River (15-3) — Feather River got in just one game last week due to the weather in California. And it was a nail bitter! The Golden Hawks needed double overtime to dispatch Shasta, 97-89. Feather River is faced with having to play five games over the next 13 days, luckily three will be at home. This week will be a normal week with games on Wednesday (vs. 12-7 Butte) and Saturday (at Redwoods, 7-10). However, next week, the Golden Eagles will play three games over eight days — weather permitting (never thought I would string those words together in a basketball poll). Feather River begins the week with a ½ game lead on Shasta.   

9. San Diego City (19-5) — San Diego City had its first test in conference play as Southwestern managed to stay within 10 points of the Knights in an 83-77 San Diego City win. The Knights have not had a game decided by less than 10 points since losing to Bakersfield back on January 3. This week, San Diego City begins a three-game home stand. Imperial Valley (6-12), which begins the week a game behind San Diego City (3-0), visits San Diego on Wednesday. However, Imperial Valley hopples into San Diego after suffering a 20-point loss to Grossmont last Friday.

10. Canada (16-5) — Canada is one of five teams in the Coast-North with 11 wins or more. The Colts’ 16 wins is third best — in the division! But they begin the week tied with San Francisco for first place. Next week, Canada faces games against San Francisco and Las Positas, but before we can get to next week, we need to talk about this week. This week, Canada hosts 11-9 Foothill and then visits 15-6 Ohlone. Victories this week would set the stage for Canada’s conference championship hopes.

11. Santa Rosa (14-6) — Santa Rosa tumbles four places this week after dropping a conference game to San Joaquin Delta, 86-80. Despite the loss, the Cubs open the week with a game lead on San Joaquin Delta and Sierra for conference championship. Unfortunately, there is five teams within two games of Santa Rosa in the chase for the conference title. This week, 9-11 Sierra gets a shot at Santa Rosa. Then the Cubs meet 10-7 American River in Sacramento. This is one of those scenarios where every game is key to their title hopes — and probably a top four regional seed. 

12. San Diego Miramar (17-5) — The San Diego Miramar Jets have flown under the radar (see what I did there), but the Jets are positioned to soar to the top of the Pacific Coast-North with a win on Wednesday vs No. 4 San Bernardino. Miramar has won four straight and 10 of its last 11 games. In their last two games, the Jets have surpassed the 100-point total. Will be interesting to see what the game plan will call for against San Bernardino, which is averaging 81.7 points a game. Miramar also squares off against 11-11 this week, but for now it is all about San Bernardino.

13. Las Positas (17-4) — Behind its shocking victory over San Francisco, Las Positas climbs to No. 13 this week. The Hawks, however, still remain two games back of San Francisco and Canada in the race for the divisional title. The winner, however, has to rejuvenate Las Positas which lost two of its three conference games. As we have said before, this division is a &*(%$#. So, there is no time for Las Positas to savor its upset victory. There is still plenty of work ahead. The Hawks begin a three-game home stand, where they are 6-1 this season, beginning with 11-9 Skyline and then Foothill, which also begins the week 11-9.

14. Mt. San Antonio (12-7) — Mt. San Antoni’s shocking 14-point upset of East Los Angeles, propelled the Mounties into the state ranking this week. Settling in at No. 14, Mt. San Antonio is 6-3 in its last nine games and 4-1 in its last five. At 2-0 in the South Coast-South, Mt. San Antonio begins the week tied with No. 17 Chaffey for first place. We hate to get ahead of ourselves, but you can’t but be excited for next week the the Mounties face Chaffey on the road and then host East Los Angeles for a rematch. But first Mt. San Antonio has to take care of Rio Hondo (Wednesday) and LA Trade Tech (Friday) on the road.

15. San Joaquin Delta (11-8) — Hats off to San Joaquin Delta, I don’t think anyone saw the Mustangs fighting for the Big Eight Conference title. Spurred by the play of Jovian Cormier, who is averaging 19.2 points per game in conference games and Mike Anderson, who is averaging 13.5, SJ Delta appears to be a contender for the conference title down the stretch. After losing two of its first three conference contests, the Mustangs have run off three consecutive wins. The Mustangs are a game behind front-running Santa Rosa. This week, Delta faces two teams fighting for their post-season survival in 11-10 Cosumnes River and 15-6 Diablo Valley, losers of three of its last six games.

16. East Los Angeles (14-5) — Mt. San Antonio handed East Los Angeles its largest-margin of loss this year in its 81-67 victory. And the pollsters took it out on the Huskies, as they fall all the way to No. 16 this week. Trailing by two points at half, East Los Angeles managed just 33 second-half points in the lost to unranked Mt. SAC. The Huskies committed 23 turnovers in the game. Not is all lost, though. East LA can get right back in the conference hunt on Friday when the Huskies host Chaffey. First, however, East LA needs to dispatch LA Trade Tech.

17. Chaffey (16-6) — And speaking of Chaffey, the Panthers land at No. 17 this week as the bottom half of the poll got all shaken up. The Panthers are riding a modest three-game win streak after being routed 85-64 by El Camino-Compton back on January 8. This week, Chaffey hits the road for games against 5-14 Pasadena City and then a showdown with East Los Angeles. If the Panthers survive this week, they come right back to square off against Mt. San Antonio next week.

18. Cabrillo (13-6) — Cabrillo has quietly built a five-game win streak, the Seahawks longest of the year. That win streak has Cabrillo leading the Coast-South division by a game over De Anza. And, as luck would have it, Cabrillo hosts De Anza on Wednesday. A victory would open a two-game lead for the Seahawks with six games to play. Cabrillo also visits 7-12 San Jose on Friday.

19. Antelope Valley (16-6) — It has been a long climb back for Antelope Valley. The Marauders, who are riding an eight-game win streak, make their way back into the Top 20 this week. But they may not want to get to comfortable. This week, Antelope Valley hosts its two biggest threats to a conference championship — Citrus on Wednesday and Glendale on Saturday. Citrus, the preseason favorite, stumbled out of the game, falling to LA Valley in overtime. The Owls championship hopes rest heavily in Lancaster, a tough place to win. The Marauders have lost twice at home this season — vs. No. 1 Saddleback and NO. 7 Fullerton. We are sure Citrus would like to join that elite group. 

20. Merced (12-7) — Merced wrestles the final spot in this week’s poll from Ohlone, West Hills and Sequoias (each was one point behind the other this week). Merced, which currently tied for second place with West Hills and Sequoias, has won three straight since losing two of its first three conference games. This week, the Blue Devils visit 6-13 Porterville, before getting another shot at Fresno, which scored 119 points in their first meeting back on January 4.

Northern California Regional Poll
1. San Francisco (9)
2. Yuba (6)
3. Fresno
4. Feather River
5. Canada
6. Santa Rosa
7. Las Positas
8. San Joaquin Delta
9. Cabrillo
10. Merced
11. Ohlone
12. West Hills
13. Sequoias
14. Diablo Valley
15. Butte
Others receiving votes: Marin, Skyline, Foothill, Sierra 

Southern California Regional Poll
1. Saddleback (14)
2. San Bernardino
3. El Camino-Compton (1)
4. Fullerton
5. San Diego City
6. San Diego Miramar
7. Mt. San Antonio
8. East Los Angeles
9. Chaffey
10. Antelope Valley
11. Mt. San Jacinto
12. Riverside
13. Citrus
14. Bakersfield
15. LA Southwest/Ventura
Others receiving votes: Cypress, Cerritos, Canyons, Cuesta, Glendale, MiraCosta