Warriors and Vaqs in midst of hot streaks

It’s been hoops heaven for Westmont and Santa Barbara City College thus far in 2009.

The Westmont men have won seven straight and are ranked 14th in the country, while the Warrior women have won five straight and are ranked 10th in the nation.

Over at SBCC’s Sports Pavilion, Morris Hodges‘ men’s team has won five straight and Sandrine Krul’s Lady Vaqs have taken six of seven.

It’s no wonder that athletes from these programs were honored as Athletes of the Week at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon.

Westmont’s Dan Rasp is just a sophomore, but he’s been showing that he has the potential to be one of the school’s all-time greats by the time he graduates. The forward had a clutch offensive rebound with 15 seconds remaining, turning it into a basket that sealed the Warriors’ win over Cal Baptist, which was ranked tops in the country at the beginning of the season. He then went on to have a career-high 29 points against The Master’s.

His coach, John Moore, had everyone in the Ranchero Room at Harry’s close their eyes and feel their pulse. He then had them imagine stepping to the free-throw line with the game on the line. Naturally, most everyone’s pulse would quicken in that situation.

“Dan Rasp is the only player I’ve ever coached whose heart rate goes down in that situation,” he said.

The Warriors play on the road against arch-rival Biola on Tuesday.

Kirsten Moore has the women’s team in the NAIA’s top 10 for the first time in school history, and the Warriors are leading the Golden State Athletic Conference in nearly every defensive category. They now have a target on their backs, however, and will also play at Biola on Tuesday. Moore and her players have never defeated the Eagles.

Imelda Bealer was named Athlete of the Week for her thievery. The SBCC freshman had four consecutive steals to start the second half against Hancock, finishing with a career-high 14 points, nine rebounds, five steals and a block. Sports Information Director Dave Loveton also discussed the SBCC men, who have consistently received top-notch performances from the likes of Mark Keeten and David Lane during their winning streak.

Coach John Ward’s Carpinteria boys hoopsters lost their first Tri-Valley League game last week, as did the Westmont teams when they started GSAC play. Westmont hasn’t lost a GSAC game since, and Ward figured if he sat next to Moore and Moore at Harry’s the trend would rub off. If Carp is going to find success in the TVL they’ll need more than just star players Kevin Lusterio and Manny Hernandez. Two of those players were with Ward on Monday — all-county lineman John “Mr. Fundamentals” Bustillos and sophomore budding-star Trevor Madden.

Maynard Pilapil’s Dos Pueblos girls are off to an 0-2 start in the Channel League, but it’s certainly not a surprise considering the young Chargers had to face perennial powerhouses Buena and Ventura on consecutive days. Senior captain Meghan Murphy continues to embrace the nickname and role of “Team Mom,” and even hosted a party for all of her underclassmen teammates to watch freshman Jessica Escalante on national TV on Saturday.

Escalante, 14, defended her national title in the NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass and Kick contest in Carolina over the weekend, winning by just one inch. She was recognized on TV, and gave her team a special wave that she promised to give. The freshman is averaging double-digit scoring and will be a big factor in Tuesday’s game against San Marcos at the Thunderhut.

The Royals also had a winless week against two powerhouse teams, Buena and Rio Mesa. Kristyn Miller’s team was tied with Buena at halftime and was ahead of Rio Mesa after one quarter, and will try to put four quarters together and finish things off against the Chargers.

Jeannette Mendoza scored 35 points over the two games and continues to guide the Royal offense, while Vanessa Curiel has been a defensive fireball. Desiree Porter-Ray has received more playing time than anticipated but is “calm and coachable” and “doesn’t freak out” with the increased responsibility, according to Miller.

Just like the Royals on the hardwood, the Royals in the pool have faced their share of stiff competition. Brian Roth’s water polo team is 6-7 overall and 0-2 in the Channel League, but all of those losses have come against ranked teams.

“We’re having one of the best seasons we’ve had in the four years I’ve been with the team,” said Roth.

Tuesday provides a good opportunity for the team to pick up a league win win Buena pays a visit at 3:15 p.m. Roth brought along a pair of hard-nosed players in Rose Koper and Brittny Hummel.

Roth called Koper “one of the toughest players I’ve ever coached” after she was stung by  bee on the chin during a team huddle and insisted that she jump back in the pool and keep playing.

Hummel has earned the nickname of “The Rock” for refusing to let illness keep her out of practice. She played through bronchitis last week, and played well at that.

The Santa Barbara boys basketball team had to be tough to bounce back from last week’s league-opening loss to Ventura, a wild see-saw affair that the visiting Cougars won in the closing moments on a 4-point play. They even banked in a couple of treys on the fourth quarter, which is considered lucky in hoops.

Coach Chris Hantgin felt that his team played a great game and wondered if they could have played any better.

“When I watched the film I realized that we can be a lot better… I feel that if we keep working hard this team can be something special,” he said. The Dons have some time to improve in practice before Friday’s game against Buena.

DP’s Pilapil pinch-hit for boys coach Joe Zamora, whose team is coming off of two close losses to Buena and Ventura to open Channel League play. Zamora guided the team to a perfect Channel League last year, however, and is banking on players like Evan “Indiana” Hamilton and big Brian “Stellar” Heller to help the team bounce back.

Mark Walsh’s Santa Barbara High girls water polo team is off to a perfect Channel League start, even though he began the season with a host of untested talent. He admitted that he may have overlooked freshman Makenzy Fowler early on because he simply “didn’t realize how good she was”. Wash also introduced goalkeeper Chloe Brooks, who is averaging double-digit saves in the cage.

A team the Dons have yet to face is their opponent in last year’s CIF final, Dos Pueblos. The Chargers have lost only two games all season despite missing star sophomore Kiley Nueshul due to injusry. Both of those losses have come to against the top two teams in Division I. Coach Danelle Little brought along her senior captains, defender Jessica Morelos and driver Sienna Van Alphen, who have both worked their way into starting positions.

“They bring speed, talent, experience and dedication to our team,” said Little.

The UCSB men’s basketball team has speed and talent but not much experience, which assistant coach Jono Metzger-Jones said might be a reason for the team’s 1-3 start in Big West play. The Gauchos had double-digit leads in two of those losses.

“There are very few teams in Division I that start three freshmen,” he said. “In the end, believe you men, the future is very bright for us.”

The Gauchos play at Cal Poly on Saturday.

Jarrod Bradley likened his San Marcos boys basketball team to the Gauchos, because teh Royals have also had a tough time holding on to leads. They are, however, off to a very strong 10-7 start and are 1-0 in the Channel League after defeating Buena. Nick Marquez scored 17 points in the win despite playing on a bum ankle.

Bradley introduce sophomore post player Christian Mkpado, who is averaging about six points and eight points per game and provides a big body down low for the team, as well as junior JP Dodson, who is second on the team in free throw attempts and is one of the most aggressive players wearing the blue and red. Both players have GPAs over 4.0.

The Bishop Diego girls basketball team gave coach Jeff Burich quite a treat in a recent game and they didn’t even know it. The Cardinals jumped out to an early lead to force a Grace Brethren timeout, and Burich was able to save his voice.

“They all were discussing strategy and defensive assignments with each other, and I just stood back,” he said. “It was the least I’ve ever said in a timeout.”

The Cardinals face Frontier League favorite Santa Clara this week, and Burich feels that his team might be the the only league opponent with a good shot at beating the Saints. He was accompanied by junior post players Dalise Spence and Janelle Kohler. Kohler is averaging 10 points and 10 boards per contest.

On the boys side, Cardinals coach Ray Vazquez is dealing with the same set of problems that have presented themselves to many local coaches this winter. His team is very talented but very young, just like the Gaucho men. Elias Muñoz scored 32 points in his high school debut in the season’s first game, and senior Art Gonzales is just coming into his own after a rough transition from football.

Bishop is 5-9 overall but went 0-2 this past week, and will try to turn things arounf as the Frontier League season keeps rolling on this week.

A team that the community hasn’t heard much about yet is the UCSB women’s water polo squad, which has been taken over by men’s coach Wolf Wigo. Assistant coach Cathy Nueshul, whom Santa Barbara’s Walsh credited as one of the main catalysts for the development of the community’s immense talent in the sport, came to Harry’s and said that she and Wigo are “very cautiously optimistic” with their fresh roster of mostly untested talent. Things get rolling for the Gauchos on January 24th t the Cal Baptist Tournament.

PHIL WOMBLE ETHICS AWARD: Cate’s Mackenzie Walsh, a native of Bozeman, MT, does a little bit of everything over on the Carpinteria mesa. She’s a school tour guide, a member of multiple charitable clubs, ad accomplished violinist in the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony and a writer for the yearbook and school newspaper. She happens to be on track to become the school’s best-ever female cross-country runner as well.

“If I had to create a model Cate student, it might be Mackenzie,” said athletic director Wade Ransom.

—SPECIAL OLYMPICS AWARD: Ben McLaughlin is a proud San Marcos Royals as well as a standout defender in the sport of floor hockey for the Santa Barbara Seals. He is taking classes in math and science and also theater, as he enjoys being in front of a crowd.

“He’s become a real leader of our team, andhe always smiles and motivates everyone,” said his coach, Amanda Howard.

He’s not a bad public speaker, either.

“I’d like to than the Round Table, my family, my friends and all my coaches,” he said.

SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION: The Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation gave out $6.4 million in scholarships this past year, and is interested in helping local students achieve their academic goals. Executive Director Colette Hadley was at the luncheon to spread awareness of the opportunities available through the foundation. For more information, click here.