Inside O.C. basketball this week


We've finally reached championship week.

The CIF-SS champions will be crowned starting Thursday and concluding Saturday.

But once you're done celebrating, it will be time to get back in the gym to start preparing for the CIF Regional playoffs.

The season isn't ending anytime soon. Who's up for basketball in April?

It could happen one of these years.

For now, it's time to go inside the O.C. basketball scene:

Santa Margarita knocks off my team

Last week we wrote about resurgent Santa Margarita. This week, we're still talking about the Eagles, but I'm not happy with them. Santa Margarita upset my alma mater Leuzinger last week in the 3AA semifinals. Now, Santa Margarita, which went winless in the Trinity League, is a victory away from becoming CIF champs. Santa Margarita will face Damien of La Verne in the finals Thursday night (8:15 p.m.) at the Anaheim Convention Center. Even though they knocked off my Olympians, it has been an extremely good run for the Eagles.

I hope the OCVarsity crew brings a lunch ... and dinner

This is one of the busiest weekends of the school year. You have the basketball finals, soccer finals and CIF State Wrestling championships. There is no calling in sick this weekend. There could be four - count them, four - boys finals Saturday involving county teams. There could be a county team in the 2A, 2AA, 1A and 1AA final. The first possible game with a county team would be at 2 p.m. and the last one would be at 8:30 p.m.

Tillers stand strong

It didn't look good for Tustin in the early moments of last week's Tustin-Compton game. There were too many wide-open buckets for Compton and the Tustin offense was in hiding. Then things got real ...most notably, that Tustin defense started getting up close and personal with the Compton players. Compton made just three 3-pointers in the second half. The Sentinels' Robert Lewis, who was seemingly wide open from the tip, scored just five points in the second half. The Tillers will be looking to cap off their Southern Section run with a victory over Royal of Simi Valley in the 3AAA final on Thursday night. The Tillers are allowing just 46.7 points a game in the playoffs.

Jo Jo Ballestero needs your votes

The county's undisputed 3-point king, Jo Jo Ballestero of Canyon, is currently in a competition to appear in the National High School 3-point contest on CBS. Jo Jo was one of 16 contestants picked from around the country. Go to, select bracket (Men's 3-pt) and click to vote for Jo Jo B, Canyon High School. The voting ends today at 10 p.m. (PST). So like my dad used to do early and often.

The night Isaac Hamilton went off

Sorry to bring up some bad memories for Ocean View fans, but sometimes you have recognize a true baller. Last week, St. John Bosco managed to survive its semifinal game against Ocean View with an 89-87 victory. Senior Isaac Hamilton dropped 43 points, making 16 of 23 from the field and 10 of 12 from the free throw line. He had only one 3-pointer. He also had three assists and eight rebounds. Hamilton and the Braves will be trying to win the 3A title when they face Chaminade of West Hills on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Luckily for Adam Maya, that's one game he doesn't have to wake up for.)

The showdown is close (or almost here)

By the time you read this, Tuesday night games will have probably been played. So if that's the case, how many of you are fired up for Saturday's Mater Dei-Long Beach Poly showdown? The top-seeded Monarchs against the second-seeded Jackrabbits! Clear your schedule for Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. If I'm wrong and somehow Mater Dei and/or Long Beach Poly suffer defeat on Tuesday, don't blame me.

Dana Hills on a run to new heights

Dana Hills went through a rough patch during mid-January, losing three consecutive games by a combined 15 points. But since then the Dolphins have been a roll. They started the week on an eight-game winning streak, a run that saw them reach the CIF-SS 1A semifinals. This was the first trip to the semifinals for the Dolphins. Is there a first-ever trip to the finals in the cards?

Tesoro catching fire at right time

Tesoro went through a rough patch in the South Coast League, going 2-6 and finishing in last place. However, the 2A playoffs have proved to be the right medicine for whatever ailed the Titans. They made it to the semifinals, where they were set to take on top-seeded Westlake on Tuesday night.

Ndiaye closes out strong

Brethren Christian was eliminated by Buckley of Sherman Oaks in the 5AA quarterfinals. Mamadou Ndiaye tried to keep the season going, turning in a 34-point, 17-rebound performance in his final game for the Warriors. It was Ndiaye's 10th 30-plus point performance and his ninth 15-plus rebound game. It was quite a season for the big man.

My O.C. top 10

As long as Steve Fryer and Adam Maya continue to turn out their top 10s, even though the regular season has ended, I will continue to post mine here. Here is my top 10 for this week: 1. Mater Dei; 2. Mission Viejo; 3. El Toro; 4. Tustin; 5. JSerra; 6. Villa Park; 7. Ocean View; 8. Orange Lutheran; 9. Tesoro; 10. Canyon.

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Huntington Beach 1, JSerra 2 - 00:00 2nd Half - Completed


Paramount 5, El Toro 1 - 44:59 2nd Half - Completed


Canyon 0, El Toro 3 - 3rd Set - Completed


Foothill 8, Capistrano Valley Christian 3 - 7th Inns - Completed


El Toro 3, Capistrano Valley 1 - 4th Set - Completed


Corona del Mar 0, Godinez 1 - 00:00 1st Half - Completed


Long Beach Poly 36, Troy 21 - 08:00 3rd QT - Completed


Rancho Christian 61, Capistrano Valley 68 - 00:00 4th QT - Completed


Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 56, Troy 68 - 00:00 1OT QT - Completed


San Clemente 41, Trabuco Hills 40 - 00:00 1OT QT - Completed