SHOWDOWNS ARE BREWING.
Dick Dornan could sense the danger on Tuesday. Crespi High's second-year coach was talking about tonight's game against Mission League rival Chaminade, but kept interrupting his thoughts by saying: ``But by no means are we overlooking (Wednesday's game against) Harvard-Westlake.''
It was Dornan's way of warning his players not to peek too far ahead. The Celts are in the thick of the Mission League boys' basketball race, and the last thing they needed was to slip up against the Wolverines.
As it turns out, that's exactly what happened. Harvard-Westlake crushed Crespi 94-77 Wednesday to jump into a three-way, second-place tie with the Celts (15-5, 5-2) and Alemany (12-5, 5-2).
Crespi climbed out of two huge holes to make it close early in the fourth quarter, but Wolverines guard Russell Lakey took over at that point, converting a handful of important shots down the stretch. Lakey finished with 33 points.
Harvard-Westlake's win enabled Chaminade (16-3, 5-1) to take over first place. The Eagles can open a two-game lead over Crespi with a win tonight, then claim the title outright with wins in their remaining five games.
Not that Chaminade coach Jeff Young is even thinking about a league championship.
``It will certainly help if we win,'' Young said. ``But in this league, you have to prepare for every step of the way. The way this (race) is working out, you've got to be sharp every single night.''
Chaminade plays at Harvard-Westlake on Monday.
For Crespi, tonight's game is as much about recognition as a chance to pull into first place. The Celts upset Chaminade 42-38 on the road Jan. 8, but felt respect was slow in coming from many fans.
``That win wasn't a fluke,'' Dornan said. ``And we felt we didn't get any credit from the San Fernando Valley and that we were disrespected after that win by certain coaches and players. So we want to prove that we're a good team.''
In other key local games, Simi Valley can take control of the Marmonte League race with a win over Newbury Park. The Pioneers have thoroughly embarrassed league opponents this year, winning by an average margin of 34.4 points. They crushed Moorpark 92-53 Wednesday.
``They're just playing at a level right now that they haven't reached in a number of years,'' Newbury Park coach Steve Johnson said. ``I mean, Moorpark is a pretty good team and (Simi Valley) just took them apart.''
Johnson sent assistant Chris Printz to Simi Valley to scout the Pioneers' game Wednesday. The analysis hardly made Johnson's day.
``Let's just say it wasn't the positive report I was hoping for,'' Johnson said, laughing.
Not when Simi Valley center Rafael Berumen (26 points, 14 rebounds) and forwards Brett Michel (26 points) and Branduinn Fullove (16 points) play the way they did.
It's also an important night in Pacific and Foothill girls' basketball league races. Two long winning streaks will be on the line.
Crescenta Valley, ranked No. 1 by The Daily News, is 5-0 in the Pacific League, 18-3 overall and has won its last 37 league games. Second-place Muir (4-1, 11-9) is bidding to end the Crescenta Valley's streak of four consecutive outright league titles.
Hart (5-0, 11-8) enters tonight's game at Valencia with a 43-game winning streak in the Foothill League. The Indians scored the final 11 points in a 51-39 win over Valencia in the league opener.
BIG NIGHT TONIGHT
Chatsworth at Taft 6:30
Cleveland at Kennedy 6:30 p.m.
Newbury Park at Simi Valley 7 p.m.
Chaminade at Crespi7 p.m.
Taft at El Camino Real 4 p.m.
Crescenta Valley at Muir 5:45 p.m.
Hart at Valencia 6 p.m.
BOX: BIG NIGHT TONIGHT (see text)