Article, 2006-2007 Season - Ohlone College Renegades Men's Basketball

This Great Eight lacks a clear-cut favorite

By Joe Curley,

Wednesday, March 7, 2007—Reprinted from Ventura County Star.

For two years, the Great Eight has been the Unbeatable One.

In 2005, Fresno City College became the first undefeated team in California community college men's basketball in 35 years by finishing off a 34-0 season with an 83-68 win over San Bernardino Valley at the Jenny Craig Pavilion in San Diego.

One year later, Fullerton completed a 37-0 campaign with an 81-67 win over West Valley at Selland Area in Fresno.

The eight teams still playing arrive in the Central Valley today under a completely different dynamic.

Coaches around the state may say Antelope Valley or Ohlone are the strongest or Compton and Yuba are the hottest from the respective regions, but the California community college championships will begin Thursday without a clear-cut favorite for the first time in years.

"It's really evenly matched," said Ventura coach Greg Winslow, who fell to the perfect Fresno team, 114-103, in a state quarterfinal in its only other state tournament appearance in 2005.

"Somebody's going to come out of there as a state champion, but the difference between the state champion and someone that gets eliminated on Thursday is a thin margin. "There's a lot of balance."

In a field that includes six teams that lost in the final week of the regular season, Ventura (26-6), the South's No. 1 seed, will play Yuba (27-7) Thursday at 3 p.m.

"I would say without a doubt it's a wide open," said Chabot coach Denny Aye. "Whoever plays well is going to win it."

Despite being the North's No. 4 seed, Yuba may be the most dangerous team in the tournament. Behind three Division I signees, point guard Aaron Garner (Boise State), shooting guard Mareceo Rutledge (UNLV) and 6-foot-6 forward Demetrius Young (Marshall), Yuba is undefeated in 2007, winning 16 straight since falling to Chabot on Dec. 28.

"I haven't seen a more wide-open tournament," said Tony Costello, the coach of Las Positas College. "Usually, there's a team that makes you say, ‘There's nobody that can beat this team.'

"But any of these teams can win this thing."

None on the 93 teams in the state made it to New Year's Day unbeaten this season. Riverside, which was eliminated Saturday in Ventura, was 16-0 when it fell 79-61 to Bakersfield on Dec. 29.

Before the Fresno City and Fullerton teams of the past two years, Riverside City, 35-0 in 1964, and Compton, 33-0 in 1970, are the only other two unbeaten teams in California community college men's basketball history.

Only the 38-0 Ventura College women's basketball team of 1999-2000 had a better season than Horton's 37-0 Hornets last season.

"I've always said, us going 37-0 is like Appalachian State winning the NCAA Division I national championship," said Antelope Valley coach Dieter Horton, who coached Fullerton last season. "It just shouldn't have happened.

"For little Fullerton College to beat Fresno in Fresno in front of 8,000 people, it was a bizarre experience to say the least."

In the second year of its three-year term, Selland Arena is hosting its eighth state championships, the most of any venue or location. It has previously hosted in 1968, 1974 to 1977, 1984, 1985 and 2006.

The local crowds may flock to the 5 p.m. quarterfinal involving West Hills of Coalinga and the 7 p.m. quarterfinal featuring home favorite Fresno City, but the most memorable matchup may be the early game between No. 3 (South) Antelope Valley and No. 2 (North) Ohlone.

With Riverside and Bakersfield eliminated, Ohlone may be the most balanced team left. The Renegades have won 10 of 11 games and 26 of 28 since Nov. 12.

"We're not imposing in terms of our size, but I think it's a strong and athletic group," said Ohlone coach John Peterson. "They definitely have a unique competitive spirit to them."

Injuries to key players, including 6-foot-5 guard Ade Dagunduro, may have kept Antelope Valley from winning the powerful Foothill Conference, but the Marauders have healed by winning nine of their last 11.

And they've got the only defending champion left in the tournament, their defensive-minded head coach.

"We're just now starting to get healthy," said Horton.

Copyright 2007, Ventura County Star. All Rights Reserved.

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