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, MICHAEL KITADA, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Led in part by Lucas Araujo, left, Foothill is playing well as it enters the CIF-SS basketball playoffs. The Knights play a first-round game Wedneday at home against Montebello.

Fryer on basketball: Foothill confident entering postseason

STAFF WRITER

Every team wants momentum going into the playoffs.

Foothill has it.

The Knights got it by beating Esperanza and Villa Park last week, the final week of the regular season. Both teams were ranked ahead of Foothill in last week’s top 10 – Foothill was No. 9, Villa Park at No. 8 and Esperanza at No. 5.

“I think we’re playing our best basketball right now,” Foothill coach Rusty Van Cleave said. “It took us a long time to plug some gaps with Matt Avila out.”

Avila, a 6-foot-4 senior, tore an ACL in December. A fine defensive player, he was a key member of last year’s team that won the CIF-SS Division 1A championship.

“We haven’t replaced Matt by any stretch,” Van Cleave said. “But we’ve got guys playing as hard as possible, and our younger guys have grown during the course of the year.”

Connor Stinson, a 6-2 senior, has assumed the role of guarding the opponent’s top player. Last week, he covered Villa Park’s Evan Battey and Esperanza’s Kezie Okpala, two top candidates for All-Orange County consideration.

Lucas Araujo, the Register’s player of the week this week, has been the scoring leader. His younger brother, Paulo Araujo, a 6-3 junior, has supplied some scoring punch by averaging 11 points a game. Jacob Sanchez, a 5-11 senior, became steady at point guard as the season progressed.

“Now I don’t have to worry about point guard,” Van Cleave said. “If you’re worried about your point guard in playoffs, you’re probably going home early.”

Foothill, which finished second to Esperanza in the Crestview League, plays a Division 1A first-round playoff game at home Wednesday against Montebello (10-16).

Van Cleave is confident his team won’t take an early exit.

“I’m happy where our team is at,” he said.

Jump stops around Orange County boys basketball:

• Woodbridge coach John Halagan was disappointed his team did not get an at-large berth in Division 2AA. The Warriors (16-11) finished fourth in the six-team Pacific Coast League, a league that had its top three teams ranked in the top 10 in their divisions. “I feel especially bad for our seniors,” Halagan said.

• Nine first-round playoff games have county teams playing each other Wednesday: Fountain Valley at San Clemente, Division 1AA; Katella at Beckman, 1A; Godinez at El Toro, 2AA; Segerstrom at Edison, 2AA; Marina at Northwood, 2A; Godinez at El Dorado, 3AA; Pacifica at Ocean View, 3A; JSerra at Costa Mesa, 4AA; and Whittier Christian at Crean Lutheran, 4A.

• The playoffs begin Wednesday with first-round games in Divisions 1AA through 6. Open Division first-round games are Friday.

• After the first round, CIF-SS playoff dates for divisions 1AA through 6 are Friday, Feb. 23, Feb. 26 and March 2. The Open Division continues play on Feb. 23 and 26, with consolation-bracket semifinals on March 1 or 2 and the consolation final on March 3 or 4.

• CIF-SS boys basketball championship games are March 4 and 5 at Honda Center, Azusa Pacific University and Godinez.

• If the county boys basketball ranking was a top 25, here is how this voter would rank teams 11-25: 11. Edison (20-7); 12. Servite (14-14); 13. JSerra (16-10); 14. Capistrano Valley Christian (20-7); 15. Saddleback Valley Christian (16-11); 16. Ocean View (23-4); 17. San Clemente (20-6); 18. Corona del Mar (19-8); 19. Tesoro (15-11); 20. El Toro (20-7); 21. Newport Harbor (21-7); 22. Capistrano Valley (20-9); 23. Sonora (19-6); 24. Laguna Beach (21-6); 25. Cypress (19-9).

• With construction on the 91 freeway starting Friday at 9 p.m., games that require traveling on that highway to the Inland Empire might start in the late afternoon hours Friday. Games are to start at 7 p.m. unless both teams agree to a time change. The time change also must be approved by the CIF-SS office.

• Three leagues with county teams in them have all of their teams in the playoffs – the four-team Crestview League and the six-team Sunset and Trinity leagues.

• When two teams meet after the first round of the playoffs, the team with the fewest number of playoff home games at that point of the playoffs is the home team. If the two teams have played the same number of playoff home games, a coin flip decides the home team. Coin flips in advance of potential second-round matchups happen today at the CIF-SS office in Los Alamitos.

• The Open Division has a consolation bracket. First-round losers will be sent to the consolation bracket. The other 11 divisions are single-elimination divisions.

• All Open Division teams are invited to the CIF Southern California Regionals, the qualify tournament for the CIF State Championships.

• Laguna Beach’s average margin of victory was 26 points in its nine Orange Coast League wins. They went 9-1 in the league. Their loss was by one point to second-place Costa Mesa.

• When the CIF-SS office released final league standings Sunday, a few teams had final overall records of 0-0. That is because those teams did not enter their results into a website that CIF-SS is using to compile performance data as it prepares for next school year’s playoff system that will arrange playoffs solely upon the data. CIF-SS personnel scrambled to find records so they could prepare accurate brackets, but next school year teams that don’t input their data are in danger of not being accepted into the playoffs.

• Mater Dei has won 28 straight league championships. In Gary McKnight’s 34 years coaching the Monarchs, they have won 33 league titles. McKnight’s record at Mater Dei is 1,049-93 overall, 302-9 in league games.

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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