The games really start to count this week for area basketball teams as conference and league play begin for most.
Central Valley Conference play begins for the Columbia College men's team, Valley Oak League play gets under way for the Sonora High School boys' and girls' teams, and Mountain Valley League competition starts for the Mother Lode Christian and Tioga boys and girls and the Don Pedro boys.
Summerville's boys and girls have another 10 days before the start of Mother Lode League play.
Columbia College (10-7) seems to face a daunting task as defending champion Fresno is 20-0, is ranked No. 1 in the state, has won six tournaments, and is averaging a boggling 103.2 points per game.
Columbia's record is the CVC's second-best in the preseason, followed by Merced (9-7), Porterville (9-9), Reedley (8-9), Sequoias of Visalia (7-8), Modesto (8-10), and West Hills of Coalinga (6-9). Columbia, second by one game a year ago, plays its conference opener Wednesday night at 7 at Oak Pavilion against Reedley and former Claim Jumper assistant coach Brian Fonseca.
Columbia is second in the conference in scoring at 82.2 points per game, but has the second-highest yield at 79.3. The highest yield? Fresno's 84.0. The Claim Jumpers visit the Rams on Saturday night.
Sonora's girls (6-6) jump right in tonight against one of the favorites, Manteca (11-2), with tipoff set for 7:15 at Bud Castle Gym. The VOL is wide open as Tracy and West of Tracy, winners of the last two championships, are no longer in the league.
"For us, it depends on which team shows up," Sonora coach Charmon Logan said. "If it's the one that takes care of the ball, moves it, and plays smart, we're right there. If we can take care of our own game, we can play with anybody."
Both Sonora and Manteca are led by four-year varsity starters forward-center Jessica Peterson of Sonora and guard Sara Cross of Manteca.