High school sports

Jump ball for local basketball

HIGH SCHOOL basketball is underway with tournaments and pre-league games being played. League action will start in January (Shutterstock).

The focus now shifts to high school basketball and other winter sports, although a lot of attention is still focused on allegations of violent hazing in the Mater Dei High football program.

We’ll have some more observations on that at the close of this column.

An early look at local hoops

All of our local teams – that is, in the coverage area of The Tribune, which is schools that serve the communities of Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Stanton and Westminster – have started their basketball seasons and many are involved in the frantic world of tournaments.

Results and statistics are hard to come by at this time of year, with so many games, and – frankly – some coaches don’t report results if they lose – so our coverage is not as complete as we would like.

But here’s how the teams are looking out of the gate.

Boys: The two teams with the hottest starts are Marina (7-2) and Pacifica (4-0). Nick Racklin’s Vikings are an early favorite in the Surf League, with Corona del Mar (2-0) a potential rival. The Vikes were 15-9 last season and finished second in their league behind Fountain Valley.

The Mariners, coached by David Friedman, have a tougher mission in the Empire League. Tustin is 6-0 and Crean Lutheran is 1-0. Last season, the Mariners were 11-11 and tied for fifth in league with Kennedy.

Girls: No clear top team has emerged among female hoopsters. Orangewood (2-1), a perennial power, is probably near the top, but others with strong early resumes – that is, with at least two games played – are Loara (2-1), Garden Grove (4-3), Ocean View (2-2) and Santiago (3-3). Orangewood is ranked seventh in Orange County.

Who’s responsible for high school hazing?

In the wake of the alleged hazing incidents at Mater Dei High School in which – according to a lawsuit – football players engage in a violent tradition called “Bodies” in which two of them punch each other in the chest (and sometimes other places) until one quits, the question arises: who’s watching these kids?

The head football coach, Bruce Rollinson, has punted on the issue, disclaiming any knowledge of responsibility for these events, if they happened.

That’s sad to hear. A good leader takes responsibility for the people in his care, whether they are employees or students.

The CIF-SS also sidestepped the issue, establishing the principle that a team can be penalized if a player forgets to put his mouthpiece in, but as for two teenage boys beating each other bloody, well, that’s none of their concern.

Now the high school – bowing to the pressures of publicity, no doubt – has announced it would ask an outside organization to conduct an investigation and would make other changes regarding “student safety.”

That sounds good, and maybe it is, but experience in other settings suggests that, often, contrition only follows the threat of a lawsuit or public scandal, and perhaps this incident isn’t new or unique.

We’ll see. But all of this seems to be a consequence of the continuing commercialization and professionalization of high school athletics, with national TV broadcasts, “academic academies” masquerading as secondary schools and star athletes who switch schools as often as they change their socks.

Whatever happened to loyalty? Whatever happened to team spirit?

It’s been said that sports builds character. But it’s also been said that sports reveals character. What’s being revealed now?

“Prep Sport Spotlight” is posted weekly during the high school athletic season.


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