The framed photo sits prominently in coach Don Lippi's office at St. Joseph Notre Dame High, blown up so it's hard not to take notice. In it, the clock atop the backboard at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento -- illuminated in red light -- reads 0.0, and five Pilots players are seen in utter disbelief.

The photo captures the stunning moment after St. Joseph Notre Dame lost the Division V boys basketball state championship game last March to Horizon Christian Academy-San Diego, where a 30-foot shot at the buzzer handed the Pilots a 47-46 loss.

"Some of the kids say that it's mean," Lippi said of the photo. "I know it motivates me."

Almost halfway through the 2013-14 season, the Pilots are playing like a determined bunch. They entered the week with a 13-3 record and a seven-game winning streak, highlighted by victories over St. Ignatius-San Francisco on Dec. 26 and El Cerrito on Jan. 8 in their Tri-County Athletic League-Rock Division opener.

St. Joseph Notre Dame hosted Pinole Valley on Wednesday and will host defending league champion Salesian on Friday.

The Pilots have a blend of youth and experience. They are led by senior forward/center Temidayo Yussuf, juniors Marcus Banks, a forward, and Marcus Harris, a combo guard. Sophomore Miles Harris and freshmen Darne Duckett and Jade' Smith are also making an impact.


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"We have a good group of young kids," Lippi said. "Temidayo and Marcus help me teach the young guys. They've been practicing well and playing well in games. But when February comes around, you're no longer a freshman."

What's impressed Lippi is that despite the Pilots' relative youth, they have improved at managing the game, particularly in the fourth quarter. St. Joseph Notre Dame was 6-1 entering this week in games decided by six points or less.

That should help in what figures to be a grueling league campaign and another challenging postseason, as the Pilots hope to change the scene portrayed in that state championship game 10 months ago.

"It was right in the palm of our hand," Lippi said. "But when you have it taken away from you like that, you really appreciate the beauty of winning."

MLK Classic returns: Martin Luther King Jr. Day will once again include a steady diet of high school basketball across the region, highlighted by the MLK Classic at Cal's Haas Pavilion.

The six boys games include many of the area's best teams.

A possible Northern California Open Division preview between Bishop O'Dowd and Capital Christian-Sacramento at 3:45 p.m. could be the best game of the day. NorCal's top two teams, according to CalHiSports.com, feature premier recruits in Dragons junior Ivan Rabb and the Cougars' D.J. Wilson, who has signed a letter of intent with Michigan.

De La Salle, the event's host, will face Long Beach Poly at 5:45 p.m. The event starts at 10:30 a.m. with Castro Valley vs. St. Mary's, followed by El Cerrito vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral-San Francisco (12:15 p.m.) and Newark Memorial vs. Jesuit-Carmichael (2 p.m.). Salesian vs. Sacramento (7:30 p.m.) caps the day.

MUSTANGS ROLL ON: With an almost entirely new set of starters from last year's North Coast Section Division I champion team, the Monte Vista girls haven't missed a beat.

In fact, after more than six weeks of play, 14 games and three tournaments, the Mustangs still haven't lost. Winning is apparently contagious at the Danville campus this winter with the boys basketball team and the school's varsity soccer squads also holding onto unbeaten records well into the season.

Under longtime coach Ron Hirschman, the girls basketball team used its usual tough defense (it allows just 33.8 points per game), reinforcements from a solid junior varsity team and the scoring duo of Lily Wissinger and Amanda Daily to win titles at the Alhambra Lady Bulldog Classic, Walnut Creek Holiday Classic and Newark Memorial tournament.

They've soundly defeated their first three East Bay Athletic League opponents.

But on Friday, Monte Vista's winning streak will face its biggest test yet. The Mustangs travel to Carondelet, which has won four straight outright EBAL titles after sharing one with Monte Vista in 2008-09.

If anyone stands a chance at dethroning the Cougars, who are led by Nebraska-bound point guard Natalie Romeo and 3-point specialist Makenzie Cast, it's Monte Vista.

Last season, the Mustangs shocked the Cougars 63-60 early in EBAL play, marking Carondelet's first league loss in four years, a stretch of 54 games.

Plus, winning is simply in the air at Monte Vista these days.

Staff writer Stephanie Hammon contributed to this notebook. Follow Curtis Pashelka on Twitter at twitter.com/CurtisPashelka.