MMC -- By stunning taller Enochs in the Eagles' gym in the conference opener, Johansen labeled itself a contender. It was the first time in their last five games the Vikings had won, and they did it by feeding 6-foot guard Dakarai King as frequently as possible. ... It will be a good matchup when Davis hosts Johansen on Jan. 29: King vs. Davis' Donte Walker in a meeting of the MMC's top shooting guards. Davis hosts Enochs on Friday in hopes of duplicating its 66-51 win from Dec. 29. Davis struggled in the MMC opener, but had played just once in the previous 16 days. ... Modesto's the mystery team, snapping a four-game losing streak Friday by beating Beyer (64-39). The Panthers beat CCC leader Pitman 77-60 on Dec. 5, then lost to the Pride 62-55 on Dec. 14. We'll get an idea of their prospects Wednesday, as the Panthers take a trip to Johansen.
CCC -- First place and city pride will be on the line Wednesday: CCC-leading Pitman hosts second-place Turlock. We knew Turlock would be talented with Travis Souza, Eric Wetzel and Anthony Hubbard (combining to average 49 points a game), and its CCC loss is to Merced in OT. Pitman's 6-foot-6 center Dominic Romeo is getting much of the credit for the Pride's performance, and rightly so: He has six double-doubles in a seven-game win streak. The key to continued success is 6-6 Amarpreet Randhawa, averaging 14 points and shooting 62 percent in the CCC. ... Merced is deeper than both rivals, though it lost 66-53 to Pitman. The Bears look great in spurts, but need to get consistent to make a playoff run. They've got the guards to do it: Reggie Nelson, Otis Caery, Marques Barron and Jaquari People. The Bears need to post three impressive wins before their second at Pitman on Jan. 29.
VOL -- Manteca gets Kiwi Gardner back for Wednesday's VOL battle at Sierra. The district's top scorer with 26.1 points, Gardner missed two weeks for bumping an official, but the Buffs are 4-1 in league despite his absence. The good news? Ernie Pimentel, E.J. Godfrey and Gerry Cooper expanded their offensive games while Gardner was away. ... Sierra dropped a stunner to East Union, after posting two wins over Sonora a week earlier -- one tourney win, one league win -- so the T'wolves have plenty to prove vs. Manteca and Weston Ranch. ... Weston Ranch beat Manteca and Sonora, but lost to Ceres -- an indication that the VOL is deep and talented. ... Sonora is the oddity in a four-team battle: It can't match its rivals' athleticism, but the 'Cats are big and burly with 6-5 Zach Gorgas, 6-4 Alex Kiriluk, 6-6 Mark Relei and 6-8 Eric Sutton. The 'Cats are at their best scoring from 50 to 60 points a game.
TVL -- Modesto Christian is a pedestrian 6-8, but until a team beats the Crusaders in league, they're at the top. MC has won 64 league games in a row, and goes for No. 65 tonight at Escalon. MC doesn't have Division 1 stars this season, but eight players average at least seven points and the Crusaders score 73 a night. A healthy Isaiah Burse at point -- he sat out Saturday's win over Bradshaw Christian -- will make MC even more formidable. ... Escalon has faced few tests so far, so the TVL opener should give us an idea of the Cougars' talent. Few expect an upset, but a close battle will bode well for the Cougars. ... Ripon Christian provides problems for foes with 6-8 Tyler Goslinga averaging a double-double. The key for the Knights is Logan Vos (14 ppg), Daniel Van de Pol (10 ppg) and Steve Vander Molen (8 ppg).
WAC -- Can one player determine the title? If it's Quinton McCown, a 6-4 senior out much of the season with a broken collarbone, the answer is yes. He's averaging 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in the last three WAC wins -- and he's still getting into shape. He's taking nine free throws a game and scored 22 in Friday's 59-48 upset of Central Catholic. His return will benefit 6-4 junior Daniel Greenleaf and force defenses to look inside first, giving guards Josh Tung and Noel Zaldana better looks from the perimeter. ... When it comes to entertainment, it's difficult to top Livingston, which regularly tops 70 points and averages nearly six treys. Gurpreet Sangha is red-hot, scoring 31 and 33 the last two games, but was only 16 of 28 from the line in those games -- so he's letting some points slip away. The Wolves have adapted to their talent, running at every opportunity to make up for being short: No one tops 6-2. ... Central Catholic won eight in a row -- including wins over Sierra, Golden Valley and Livingston -- before losing to Hilmar. The tandem of 6-6 Dan Hulst and 6-5 Dusty Killian (combined 25 points, 20 rebounds a game) are potent in a half-court game, but Hilmar and Livingston will push for a fast pace in their next two meetings of the triple round-robin schedule. ... Patterson is in the second tier, but Kent Foster is a must-see. The 6-1 swingman scored 45 vs. Beyer two weeks ago, and had eight assists and six steals.
SL -- Cody Wichman has led Mariposa to seven consecutive wins, and the 6-4 bruiser averages a double-double (16 ppg, 11 rpg). ... Denair is the most interesting team here: It is just above .500, but battled Mariposa before losing 60-58. Denair can't match Wichman inside, but juniors Clayton McDonald (5-11) and Colby Wooten (6-1) are able to exploit favorable matchups to find wins.
-- RICHARD T. ESTRADA