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The Day After: League races still messy

Titles, playoff spots up for grabs as Foothill teams enter final week

Posted: February 6, 2010 10:54 p.m.
Updated: February 7, 2010 4:55 a.m.
It couldn't just be simple.

With only one week left in Foothill League play, everything got complicated.

Canyon, Golden Valley and Valencia are all tied for first place in boys basketball.

In girls basketball, Canyon and West Ranch are tied atop the standings.

Hart and Saugus are still deadlocked in girls soccer and Canyon and Valencia are a close, No. 1 and No. 2 on the boys side.

It shouldn't take long for the standings to get sorted out.

In the world of boys basketball, Tuesday's games will feature a head-to-head matchup between the Cowboys and the Vikings.

Valencia is riding a four-game winning streak dating back to its last meeting with Canyon on Jan. 22.

The Cowboys won the game 59-53.

"They bring intensity and fire," said Vikings head coach Rocket Collins. "They play like their coach. He is a very intense competitor. He was like that when he was a player. He instills that in his teams. They are competitive and they play great defense."

A big difference from their last meeting is the change of venue.

Valencia won all three league games it hosted.

"We've been playing well at home, but I think that is the same for everybody," Collins said. "Golden Valley is super tough at their place. West Ranch is super tough too at their place. Just about every team plays well at home."

Another big change from the last encounter, is the addition of Valencia forward Griffin Nichols, who missed 13 games with an ankle injury.

Nichols made his return on Tuesday in a 78-73 win over West Ranch.

At 6 feet, 5 inches, the junior brings size, rebounding and blocking.

But most notably, he adds depth.

"That's the more important role he has for us right now," Collins said.

While Valencia and Canyon collide, Golden Valley will look to get back on track against West Ranch.

Saugus will play at Hart.

In girls basketball, Canyon and Valencia will headline Tuesday's action.

The Cowboys have won four straight games since Jan. 22.

But that loss is very significant, because it came at the hands of Valencia by the score 54-51.

After beating West Ranch in its next game, Canyon proceeded to beat Golden Valley, Hart and Saugus by an average of 42 points.

A Valencia win on Tuesday would hand Canyon its second league loss and give West Ranch the outright lead, should the Wildcats defeat a winless Golden Valley squad.

It would also give the Vikings the head-to-head tie-breaker.

Since Canyon plays West Ranch in the season finale on Thursday, the Cowboys run the risk of dropping from first to third place heading into the playoffs.

But if the Cowboys beat Valencia, it sets up a potential showdown with the Wildcats for the league championship.

Saugus will play at Hart on Tuesday before the season wraps up on Thursday.

The Vikings will host Saugus and Hart will travel to Golden Valley, also on Thursday.

It's time for round 2.

Canyon's and Valencia's boys soccer match on Monday lived up to its billing of a game loaded with passion and intensity.

With a 1-0 victory on a Mohammed Roknipour goal in the 52nd minute, the Cowboys took command of the league-championship race.

But emotions boiled over early, when players from both teams were involved in a skirmish on the field.

Vikings head coach Tony Scalercio said he won't allow any of the distractions to deter his team from its game plan.

"I'll have them prepared for that game," Scalercio said. "It's going to be business as usual. We are not going to change anything we do. We are going to go in and pay close to the details on both side of the ball, and in the end, give them a battle and hopefully be successful."

Undoubtedly, one of the keys to success will be to contain Roknipour, who has been a scoring force for Canyon all season.

In fact, last week the striker scored all five of his team's goals in wins over Valencia (1-0), Hart (3-1) and Saugus (1-0).

"The reality of it is, Mohammed scoring a goal, on him, is really containing him," Scalercio said. "If you can keep him down to only goal you are containing him. However, you have to score your own."

After Tuesday's match, Canyon will finish the season at West Ranch, and Valencia will host Saugus.

In other games on Tuesday, Saugus plays at Hart, and West Ranch travels to Golden Valley.

On the girls side, Hart and Saugus also have a chance to clear things up on Tuesday.

Tied for first place with 6-2 records in the Foothill League, the Indians will play at Saugus at 3:15 p.m.

In the teams' first league meeting on Feb. 1, Hart got the better of the Centurions 2-1, thanks to goals by Kelli Goss and Kelsey Steck.

"We've talked about passion an intensity, but now I think it is going to take a lot more than those two things," said Hart head coach Mike Gomez. "We have to play together as a team, as one, and connect our passes - our passes are going to have to be on - and if we can't get that, then we will not be able to succeed in scoring any goals against them."

Gomez said he also hopes to utilize his defenders more in the attack.

If they beat Saugus on Tuesday, it will be the Indians' third win over the Centurions this season.

Hart also beat Saugus during the Buena tournament on penalty kicks.

"We are hoping to make it three in a row," Gomez said. "They feel pretty confident after beating Canyon twice ... so we are looking forward to the matchup."

What better way to determine the outright champion than a heads-up match between the two to settle the score, right?
Canyon and Valencia had that opportunity last season as both entered the final game of the season tied for first place in league.

The game ended with a 0-0 tie and co-Foothill League champions.

Speaking of Canyon, at the beginning of last week, the Cowboys had emerged as the No. 1 team after beating the Vikings 1-0 on Monday.

Then the freefall began.

A 3-1 loss to Hart and a 3-1 loss to Saugus later, Canyon dropped to fourth.

With only the top-three teams guaranteed a spot in the postseason, the Cowboys might be in danger of missing the playoffs.

But Canyon head coach Eric White said he has his team focused on the task at hand.

"I guess our mentality is that we aren't worried about that just yet," he said after Friday's loss to Saugus. "We've still got two games at home, and we've got to take care of business."

They will finish out the season by hosting Valencia on Tuesday and West Ranch on Thursday.

The Vikings earned a 2-0 victory over Golden Valley on Friday, thanks to Kristin Bos' 13th goal of the season and Haleigh O'Connell's fourth.

Valencia is now in third place and will play Saugus on Thursday at home.

The Wildcats will host Golden Valley on Tuesday.


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