Rising Orange Lutheran
Last week's win over Mater Dei was a landmark victory for the Lancers' program, which has been on the cusp of joining the region's top programs for several years but never quite able to break through. It is yet to be seen if Chris Nordstrom's team can preserve that momentum throughout the season, including a rematch with the Monarchs on Jan. 28. Guards James Douglas and Gabe Yorkcombined for 49 points against Mater Dei but frontcourt depth could be an issue for the Lancers down the line.
Steve Tarabilda's program made the leap from Division 2AA to Division 1AA during the offseason, joining fellow Inland powerhouses like Etiwanda and Corona Centennial. There was some question on how the Nighthawks would fare in their new division but their recent performance indicates that they will be just fine. 6-foot-4 forward Justin Gudger is averaging 21.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and 6-foot-6 junior Jackson Helms is developing as a reliable frontcourt presence. The Nighthawks begin Southwestern League play this week and face Orange Lutheran in Saturday's Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase at Villa Park High School.
The Saints could be the team to beat in San Diego Section Division III. Recent wins over Murrieta Valley, Inglewood and small school power Pacific Hills have improved St. Augustine's profile. Mike Haupt's team has already surpassed last season's win total due in part to 6-foot-6 forwards Matt Ryan and Drew Madsen. Things get tougher for St. Augustine when they face Lincoln on Tuesday and Cathedral Catholic on Jan. 28.
The Tarbabes have struggled since star forward Anthony January left the team in mid-December. Compton lost their first three games after January's departure; they rebounded to beat several weaker teams but then lost two Moore League games to Long Beach Poly and Long Beach Wilson. Before January's departure, the Tarbabes were the top team in Southern Section Division 2AA; now they might not finish in the bottom half of their league.
The Knights had a rough time at the Oaks Christian Holiday Classic, barely beating Palisades and losing to Sacramento, Rancho Verde and Alemany. Price bounced back to defeat West Ranch and Gahr last week, but the three losses have certainly damaged their reputation as a state title contender. The Knights have a busy schedule ahead of them, facing tough games against Serra, La Verne Lutheran and a rematch against Alemany within the next few weeks.
The Panthers have started the new year with consecutive losses to San Diego Section Division I rivals El Camino, Rancho Buena Vista and Poway. The three losses dampen Vista's title hopes and could hurt their confidence when they begin Avocado East League play on Jan. 19. Vista certainly has the talent to compete in the division but something just is not clicking right now.
The Forecast The upcoming Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend offers many top teams a chance to play quality opponents in showcase games. The Coaches vs. Cancer event at Villa Park High School is one such showcase. In addition to the Orange Lutheran vs. Murrieta Valley game, the event also features an intriguing matchup between Canyon and Corona del Mar.
Saturday also brings the Johnnie Cochran Classic at LACES, which is headlined by a private school battle between Price and Gardena Serra. There is also a pair of Southern Section vs. City Section showdowns with Upland taking on Reseda Cleveland and Loyola facing Washington Prep. Fontana Summit faces Windward in a battle between solid mid-level programs.
Woodland Hills Taft will be in New York for the Hoophall Hall of Fame Classic.