SBART luncheon crowd feels the connection

Sometimes we forget what a small town we live in.

Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon was a reminder, because it seemed like nearly everyone in the Ranchero Room crowd was connected in some way.

Carpinteria boys basketball coach John Ward brought along his son Johnny, a former Bishop Diego hoopster who now serves as his dad’s assistant coach. UCSB swimming coach Gregg Wilson, who was sitting at the next table over, was Johnny’s T-Ball coach way back when.

“I think that’s what drove him to basketball,” joked the senior Ward.

The father-son duo has led the Warriors to a season which has exceeded the expectations of most. Carpinteria finished up the regular season with 15 wins and is set to play on the road at Fillmore Wednesday in the first round of playoffs.

Star post-player Manny Rodriguez had strep throat last week but should be at full-strength against the Flashes, who defeated Carp by 19 points in their last meeting. Worthy of note, however, is that Carp shot a nauseating 11-for-54 in that loss, so an average night from the floor just might do the trick.

“Nobody expected us to get 15 wins, and we’re hoping to get 16 and 17… This team has a lot of character, which is a big reason for our success,” said Ward.

Speaking of character, the monthly Phil Womble Ethics Award honors a high school junior who exudes character. Johnny Ward earned the award back in his days at Bishop, and it was Laguna Blanca’s Seth Judson who got the nod this month.

Judson plays football, soccer and lacrosse for the Owls and also carries a 4.5 GPA. He gives campus tours to prospective students and is on the staff of “Portfolio,” a yearly publication which highlights student poetry and artwork.

As if that doesn’t make him busy enough, he volunteers at the Ty Warner Sea Center and helps refurbish bicycles to give to the needy during the holidays.

It was a nice Valentine’s Day holiday for assistant coach Dave Campbell and the UCSB men’s basketball team, who got a career-high 29 points from sixth-year senior Chris Devine in Saturday’s 2-point win over Cal Poly at the Thunderdome.

“That was the best game of his career… His overall leadership has really taken hold,” said Campbell. UCSB has five Big West games remaining.

Wilson has been coaching the UCSB swimming team for over three decades (with more success than his T-Ball programs), so he’s known a lot of local coaches for a long time. He got an e-mail from former San Marcos volleyball coach Jon Lee before the luncheon from Uganda.

Lee is in Africa doing some teaching, and he wrote Wilson to tell him about a possible recruit he came across in Uganda. Wilson’s been in the game for a long time, but recruiting college swimmers in central Africa has got to be a first.

“It’s good to know that you’ve got friends in different places looking out for you,” said Wilson.

The UCSB women are 6-3 in the dual meet season and the men are 5-2. Both programs are favored in the upcoming Big West Championships, but the men are expected to have a stiff challenge from UC Davis.

Wilson introduced juniors Brett Chamberlain and Jessica Schwalb.

In another old connection, Round Table President Rick Wilson noted that he knew coach Wilson when he had long hair. Based on the UCSB swimming coach’s current shiny head, it’s safe to say they’ve known each other for a long time.

Rick Wilson is the brother-in-law of former UCSB volleyball coach Ken Preston, who coached Gaucho assistant Lee “The Tree” Nelson during his playing days. Now Nelson is a coach for the youthful Gaucho program, which has been going through some heartbreak as of late. The Gauchos have gone to the fifth game in four of their last five matches — and they’ve one only one of those 5-gamers.

“That can be frustrating for a team, but our guys have channeled that frustration and are practicing very hard,” said Nelson.

Stanford and Pacific are up next for UCSB, and Nelson is confident, saying “I think we have a really good chance to pick up two wins” this week.

Nelson introduced quick-armed opposite hitter Jake Rosener and middle blocker Cullen Irons, who is known for his big, goofy grin.

Nelson is a Santa Barbara High graduate, as is longtime Dons girls basketball coach Andrew Butcher.

Butcher recalled that Nelson — who stands about 6-foot-8 — used to drive a 1963 Ford Falcon convertible to campus in high school.

“I believe you looked over the windshield when you drove,” he joked.

The Dons were driven to a pair of crosstown wins last week by Female Athlete of the Week Brandi Blackwell. Santa Barbara trailed both San Marcos and Dos Pueblos in the fourth quarter before surging to pull out the victory. Blackwell, the school’s Homecoming Queen, had nine points with 19 rebounds against DP and 18 rebounds with 14 points against San Marcos.

“After the first game she thanked the team for boxing out, but she probably should have thanked them for missing so many shots,” joked Butcher. “Someone misses and Brandi goes and gets the ball and kicks it out to someone else who misses it and eventually Brandi shoots and we score.”

Butcher also brought along Siondra Pereyra, a junior who has been an all-or-nothing post presence for the Dons — she either has very impressive stats or none at all.

Butcher and the Dons are hoping for the impressive numbers in Thursday’s home playoff game against Camarillo.

Bishop Diego girls hoops coach Jeff Burich was the frosh/soph coach in Butcher’s program a few years back, and now he has led the Cardinals to a 16-8 overall record and an 8-2 mark in the Frontier League. Each Bishop player has led the team in scoring at least once this year except for one — and that one happens to be the team’s third-leading scorer.

The Cardinals host Yeshiva on Thursday night at the Brickhouse.

Burich pinch-hit for boys coach Ray Vazquez and brought along Male Athlete of the Week Connor MacGillivray. The Cardinal boys are in the playoffs despite suffering a 13-game losing streak this season, and MacGillivray’s performance in last week’s two wins are a big reason. He had 20 points and 15 rebounds against Villanova and 13 points with 13 boards against Grace Brethren

He and his teammates will have their hands full at Windward on Wednesday — the top-seeded Wildcats have recruits headed to Michigan and UCLA on scholarships next year.

Marcelo Duarte was at the Round Table podium for the first time, but it wasn’t his first SBART luncheon. He was taken to the event as a Santa Barbara High volleyball player under coach Bob Moore as well as when he played for former Gaucho great Jay Hanseth at SBCC.

Duarte is now an assistant for Melody Parker’s Vaquero men’s volleyball squad, which is off to a 3-2 start thanks to strong play from outside hitters Tyson Rietz and Chris Newcomb. The Vaqs are on the road against Grossmont and Golden West this week.

Westmont women’s basketball coach Kirsten Moore had a great weekend — despite breaking her elbow. Her Warrior women posted a come-from-behind victory over The Master’s College, and her husband Alex was also in town to spend a few precious days with his wife. Alex is a PhD candidate in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Missouri and also a competitive cyclist.

The couple went out for a bike ride Sunday, and coach Moore veered off the road took a spill, breaking her elbow.

“Thankfully my team is on the right road,” she said.

The Warriors hope to keep it that way when arch-rival Biola pays a visit Tuesday night.

The other coach Moore — John — led the crowd in the traditional “Beat Biola” chant before introducing two athletes. One of them was about 6-foot-8, while the other was about two feet shorter.

Moore’s daughter Jesse, a sixth-grader, got to stand up on her chair so that everyone could see her beaming smile.

“She’s probably the smartest in the family,” said Moore.

The taller athlete was Evan Haines, who Moore said has the potential to be one of the best big-men in Westmont history.

SBCC sports information specialist Dave Loveton knows a thing or two about Westmont hoops, as he covered the Warriors for two decades as a writer at the Santa Barbara News-Press. He now covers select games for

Loveton spoke about a myriad of Vaquero teams. Sandrine Krul’s women’s hoopsters are at 21-12 overall and 7-4 in the Western State Conference, while Morris Hodges‘ men are 13-8, 5-6.

The SBCC baseball team is off to its best start in Teddy Warrecker’s nine season at the helm. Led by Santa Barbara High alum Andrew Leighty, the Vaqs are 10-1 and are on an 8-game winning streak.

The Vaquero golfers have a pair of tournament wins under their belts already, and Santa Barbara High grad Andrew Perez is leading the way with an average round of 70.3 strokes. The SBCC Golf Classic is coming up, and those interested in playing should call 730-4076.

Good luck to all of our local teams in the playoffs!