Don't call it a comeback. Dominguez hasn't gone anywhere just yet.
It's a new year but nothing has changed as one of the state's premier basketball programs is reminding folks not to count them out.
Despite losing head coach Russell Otis and having to deal with two ineligible players, the Dons are flying high after they knocked off two of the states best in Fairfax and Etiwanda in consecutive games by identical scores of 58-56.
"We want to send a message to people that we are not dead, we are coming and we're going to leave it all on the court," head assistant coach Jonathan Cheney said.
Despite playing without suspended players Robert Mandingo and Chayson Williams, the Dons showed resiliency against Etiwanda by coming back from a six-point deficit with two minutes remaining but it's nothing new for a program known for that over the years.
All that's changed is the head of the ship in the form of interim head coach Duane Cooper, a former standout at Lakewood High School who later played at USC and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Before the season, there were expectations of contending for the Division I state title they lost last year to McClymonds (Oakland). That was before they lost Otis, who is under police investigation and on paid administrative leave, and seniors Jordan Hamilton and Thurman Woods who lost their CIF Southern Section appeal for a fifth year of eligibility and are waiting to hear from the CIF state office for their final appeal.
The first two weeks made for a rough transition as the team and its new coaches had to get used to each other right away. But after losing to Westchester, Taft and Marrieta (GA) Wheeler, they've regrouped to win nine of their last 10 games.
"They're doing what I want them to do but it's the same thing that Otis wanted them to do. Play hard defense and play together," Cooper said.
Leading the way has been senior Myron Green, a returning All-CIF selection, and junior Keala King, who scored 22 points and hit the winning free throws against Etiwanda with 0.9 seconds left. Without two of their leading players, most of the team has realized it's time to step up.
"We can't worry about Thurman and Jordan, we just have to deal with it and push on," Cooper said.
The shadow of Otis looms large over the program and even if this current team can't escape it, it's served as a motivation to continue his legacy and hope for more big victories down the road.
"It's still the tradition that Russell Otis started and we're going to continue it," Cheney said…
Leuzinger's hot start is not just a flash in the pan – it's here to stay for the season.
The Olympians took Westchester toe-to-toe in two tournament finals, defeated City champion Taft and took down another big-time foe in Los Angeles Windward at the Pangos Dream Classic.
Head coach Reggie Morris Jr's bunch has used their defense to lead to its offense as they scored several baskets in transition to wear down Windward down the stretch. Seniors Jerry Evans and Donley Minor did most of the damage with 31 combined points.
"We're not a big basketball team but we have to play to our strengths. We try to make every game a marathon," Morris said.
The team is driven by balance and depth so it's no surprise that while Evans leads the team in scoring (15 points per game), three others (Minor, William Overton and Julian Wheeler) average more than nine.
It's that feeling that allows the players to be comfortable in their zone as Evans alluded to after the game.
"We're able to give our all during the whole game and since we're deep on the bench, we can rely on each other [to step up]," he said.
Fatigue may have been a factor – they came fresh from playing in the MaxPreps Holiday Classic – and the road won't get easier this weekend with games against Inglewood and Bishop Montgomery.
It's a small price to pay for valuable experience to gain in a stacked Division I-AA postseason field and right now few teams are as balanced as the Olympians with league play starting next week.