A win over a pedestrian team from the heart of Orange County might not seem like much, but the Mission Oak Hawks are treating their latest victory as a key item in building their case for one of the top two Central Section Division III playoff seeds.
Mission Oak defeated Westminster 43-36 at Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Showcase at the College of the Sequoias' Dr. S. Thomas Porter Field House.
Although Monday's game means nothing to the league races, it meant plenty to Mission Oak's big picture:
* Mission Oak (16-3) claimed a win over a Southern Section school in its first game against a team from Southern California.
* If the rest of the East Yosemite League slate goes as projected, the Hawks are likely to have at least 22 wins heading into the Feb. 16 Central Section playoff seeding meeting -- which would likely guarantee the Hawks at least the No. 2 seed.
"It's huge," Mission Oak coach Myron Epps said. "This was definitely a playoff atmosphere, and defensively, [Westminster] was a good basketball team. This was a big test for us.
"It wasn't our best basketball, but our kids battled, and that's what I was most impressed with. We won playing a different style of basketball, and that's going to be big for the rest of the season."
Finding out if one of Tulare County's elite teams could score a win against an average team from the Southern Section was one of the top story lines to Monday's event.
And by achieving victory, the Hawks came through in flying colors.
But that doesn't mean Mission Oak should expect to take down some of the Southern Section's upper-tier teams -- because Westminster (8-12) gave all the Hawks they could handle for much of the game.
There was a time early in the second quarter that appeared that Mission Oak would hand Westminster one of its more lopsided losses -- Mission Oak was up 18-8 early in the second quarter -- but the Lions finished the first half by outscoring the Hawks 13-2 to take a 21-20 halftime lead.
The game was tied at 27 midway in the third quarter, but things started to go south for Westminster once 6-7 senior center Myron Aiava was called for his fourth foul.
Aiava didn't re-enter the game until there was 2:53 left in the fourth quarter. By that time, Mission Oak was nursing a 41-33 lead.
Bobby Alvarado had a team-high 11 points for Mission Oak. He knocked down three 3-pointers over the first nine minutes of the game. Blake Shannon added 10 points.
What may be troublesome for Mission Oak was that Westminster's game plan may have provided a blueprint for future Hawk opponents -- slow the game down with a patient offensive attack and play plenty of zone defense.
Mission Oak was held to a season-low 43 points. Its previous season-low was 57 points in a win over Bakersfield. The Hawks entered the game averaging 76.1 points per game.
How much of a quality win was this for Mission Oak?
Hard to figure.
Westminster's eight wins are against teams with a combined 47-93 record. Their previous 11 losses were to teams with a combined 151-69 record.