On the varsity level, the defending league champion Tritons go into their Wednesday 7 p.m. tipoff at San Juan Hills with a 9-8 record and as winners of six of their last eight games. But even that is deceiving as the the squad played most of its pre-league schedule without returning league MVP Sam Darnold, a 6-5, 215 junior forward, and transfer Gage Shelmidine, a 5-10, 175 sopho-more point guard. Conservatively, at least five of San Clemente's losses possibly could have gone into the win column with the duo on the court.
Pollsters don't know all of this, and have consistently picked league rivals Dana Hills and Trabuco Hills ahead of the Tritons in county rankings so far this year. Dana Hills was ranked 11th in the county in the most recent Orange County Register poll and has been as high as 7th. Trabuco has the same record as San Clemente, 9-8, going into this week and has been ranked as high as 12th in the county. In early December it posted back-to-back wins over No. 3 Villa Park and No. 9 Aliso Niguel. The Mustangs opened league play on Friday with a 57-34 win over Laguna Hills. San Clemente hosts Trabuco at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Triton Varsity will do well not to look past San Juan Hills on Tuesday. The Stallions took Dana Hills into triple overtime before losing their league opener on Friday.
On the junior varsity level, the defending league champion Tritons come into league wtih a 12-5 record and scuffling a bit by their standards. They have lost three of their last four with two of those losses coming to Capistrano Valley. Trabuco, whom they play on Friday, is 9-7 with three wins over Capo Valley during the preseason. The two teams have each beaten their other common opponents.
The junior varsity opens league play Wednes-day against San Juan Hills, which has an all-sophomore lineup. This does not bode well for the Stallions, who were blown out by the Triton frosh in both meetings last year.
San Clemente is also the defending league champion in the sophomore division, and does
not open league play until Friday at Trabuco because San Juan does not have a sophomore team. The Tritons come into league play with a perhaps deceiving 7-8 record.
They have won five consecutive games and have already avenged three of their losses, which occurred early in the season when the team was without two injured starters, center Donte Harrington and point guard Dylan Hauser. San Clemente will be looking to avenge two more of those losses when they face Trabuco, having dropped a pair of tournament games to the Mustangs during the preseason.
On the freshman level, the Tritons come into league as the favorite to win the title which eluded them by a single point in 2012-13. San Clemente is 15-1 on the season, including blow-out victories over league rivals Dana Hills and San Juan Hills during the preseason.
The frosh open league play at home Wednes-day against San Juan. Then they travel to defending league champion Trabuco Hills on Friday. The teams did not face each other during the preseason, but the Tritons won the Laguna Hills Tournament, whose field included the Mustangs.