For the varsity, which enters the week at 11-10 overall, 2-2 in league, a second loss to Dana Hills (17-4, 4-0) would mean that barring a collapse by the Dolphins the rest of the season, San Clemente would be playing the remainder of its schedule for second place.
The Tritons lost to Dana 54-36 at home on Wednesday in the first league meeting between the two rivals. Cold shooting was an issue for San Clemente in that game. It shot only 23 percent from the field, 16 percent on three-pointers. As a positive, the Tritons' 23 free throw attempts were 11 more than Dana. But San Clemente only converted 13 of these (57 percent), while Dana only missed two of its 12 (83 percent).
For Saturday's 7 p.m. game at Dana Hills, the varsity will be without the services of their returning league MVP Sam Darnold, who broke his right hand in the Trabuco Hills game on January 17, and is hoping to return for the rematch on February 13. He also missed the first Dana Hills game.
Before the varsity can worry about Dana Hills, it needs to deal with non-league opponent Tesoro, which it hosts at 7 p.m. Wednesday. It's a traditional rivalry game with the Titans, who gave Triton Head Coach Marc Popovich his start in high school coaching 12 years ago.
On paper, the game against 12-9 Tesoro would appear to be an even contest. Besides the similar records, both teams lost to common opponents, Woodbridge and Trabuco Hills, and both beat Capistrano Valley by a point. While bragging rights are on the line between the two schools, the game has added importance in possible CIF 1AA Playoff seeding, should the Tritons qualify.
In the junior varsity division, Saturday's 5:30 p.m. game at Dana Hills has an equal level of importance to the Tritons' championship aspirations. Like the varsity, they come in at 2-2 in league. They are 14-7 overall.
At one time, the San Clemente JV was 9-1 on the season. But after hittting a rough patch, it is only 5-6 over its last 11 games. One of those losses was to Dana, 69-58, in their first league meeting. And, like its varsity, San Clemente's J.V. had a cold shooting night, hitting on only 30 percent of its shots. The Tritons also struggled with foul trouble throughout that game.
Wednesday's J.V. matchup against Tesoro, represents the rubber game between the two teams. Each won a tournament game against the other six days apart in late December. The second, on December 26, is the highest scoring Triton game at any level this season, a 91-85 Tesoro win.
On the sophomore level, the once-struggling team is now red hot. After starting the season 2-8, the team has won eight of nine to move above .500 at 11-10, 2-1 in league. The resurgence coincides with the return to health of the sophs' starting lineup.
Against Dana Hills at home on Saturday, they will face an opponent they have taken to overtime twice, losing a short-handed game in December, and winning their league contest on Wednesday.
In Tesoro on Wednesday, the Tritons Sophs also will have an opponent against whom they've split two games. San Clemente won in a blowout in early December when starting point guard Dylan Hauser was only able to give them 10 minutes of play, but lost by three without him on December 26.
Then there is the Triton Frosh, who appear poised for a championship after a dominant, undefeated run through the first half of their league schedule. They have won their league games by an average margin of 27 points, while resting their starters much of the time.
They will face a Dana Hills team at 4 p.m. Saturday which they beat 55-34 on Wednesday. The Tritons also had a tournament win over the Dolphins, 58-38, in early December.
Wednesday's non-league opponent, Tesoro, lost to the Triton Frosh 57-40 on December 20.
The Triton Frosh Black team (6-4) also will be in action against both Tesoro and Dana Hills. Both games are at 7 p.m. They have not played Tesoro, but lost to Dana, 48-45, in overtime on Wednesday.