Basketball teams trying to embrace the pressure

Jarrod Bradley is the San Marcos boys tennis coach as well as the boys basketball coach, so he used the title of legendary netter Billie Jean King’s autobiography when talking about the state of his hoops team at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon.

“Pressure’s a Privilege.”

The Royals have certainly handled the pressure of an up-for-grabs race for the Channel League title this season, as they are at the top of the heap along with Ventura at 5-1 heading into the final week of play. J.P. Dodson handled pressure with near perfection in the team’s last game, going 21-for-23 from the free-throw line in a win over Buena.

There’s plenty of pressure on tap for this week, with games against the other two teams vying for the league championship — the Cougars and Dos Pueblos (5-2).

“Any of those teams can finish first through third, and we could have a 3-way tie for first place, so it’s quite a big week for us,” said Bradley. “The gyms are going to be packed, and it’s exciting.”

He introduced physical sophomore Thayer White, who despite his youth is the team’s best leader, according to Bradley. He also knows how to use his sturdy frame to his advantage.

“Last week we were playing one-on-one, and he makes a nice post move and basically, you know, puts my Adam’s Apple deep in my throat and scores on me,” recalled Bradley.

Also at Harry’s was senior point guard Bryant Koopmans, whose long-range shooting is going to be key in this week’s big games. The Royals host the Chargers on Tuesday night in front of what should be a standing-room only crowd.

“The game starts at seven but if you’re not there by 6:30 you’re pretty much gonna be outside,” said Bradley.


SANTA BARBARA HIGH: It’s been a remarkable season for the Dons, who came back from a 16-4 deficit to defeat state-ranked powerhouse Ventura last week. Santa Barbara has now beaten the Cougars and Buena in the same season for the first time since 2004 and has a shot at its first league title since 1988.

Coach Andrew Butcher brought along two players who embraced the pressure against Ventura. Rebecca Griffin led the comeback by scoring 24 points — 15 in the second quarter — including a half-courter at the halftime buzzer and a game-tying trey with 20 seconds to go.

Then came Jackie Kerns, the No. 2 student in the school’s entire senior class, who hit the go-ahead free throw with less than a second remaining. Butcher also introduced Sylvia Hoover-Purter, a sophomore described as “the future of the program.”

The pressure will be on on Wednesday, as the Dons will play at Buena for at least a share of the league title. Right now, Butcher is enjoying the success as much as he can.

“I was at the monster truck show this weekend in Anaheim, and we’re 20-5 and we’re 6-1 in league with one game left, and then here comes Grave Digger flying over this room. I thought ‘it doesn’t get any better than this,'” he said. “It was my 8-year-old’s birthday, and he thought the same thing.”

He also noted that he was extremely flattered to be congratulated by Ventura’s boys coach, girls coach and athletic director after his team’s big win.

BISHOP DIEGO: The final week of the regular season will also include a lot of pressure for the Cardinals, who are tied for second place in the Frontier League with rival Carpinteria. Bishop hosts Malibu on Tuesday before a huge game Thursday at Carpinteria.

The third-place finisher in the league will likely have to face the likes of mighty Oaks Christian or St. Joseph in the first round of playoffs, so the second-place spot is a big deal. The good news for the Cardinals is that they went 3-0 last week and are playing some of their best basketball of the season.

“We got back to what we do best. We were definitely more balanced last week,” said coach Jeff Burich. “Everybody was contributing, which is a good sign.”

Seven different players have now led Bishop in scoring on the season.

Burich introduced his two starting guards, junior Courtney Houston and senior Ariel Perez.

CARPINTERIA: Warrior boys hoops coach and Athletic Director John Ward pinch-hit for girls coach Dan Mercer, reporting that Caitlin Wallace and Amanda Burch continue to have monster games as the Warriors are on a hot streak late in the season. Other players have been stepping up as well.

Ward also proudly announced that three Carpinteria winter sports teams have already solidified playoff berths.

LAGUNA BLANCA: Athletic Director Mike Biermann reported on the Owls’ girls basketball team, which suffered a 2-point loss to Thacher before defeating Cate last week. They also have a big week ahead, with a road game at Dunn as well as a home matchup with Thacher that could decide the Condor League title.

Biermann introduced versatile freshman Zoe Serbin, who had 11 points and seven rebounds against Cate, as well as senior Amanda Schulenberg, who is a 3-year starter and leads the team in scoring, assists and steals.

SAN MARCOS: Bradley reported on behalf of girls coach Kristyn Miller. The Royals went 1-1 last week, and were set to face Dos Pueblos in a big home game on Monday night before finishing up the regular season at Ventura on Wednesday. The team’s seniors — Vanessa Curiel, Lindsay Hyslop, Kimmy Sanchez and Marissa Unzueta — were to be honored before Monday’s game.


LAGUNA BLANCA: Owls senior Luther Tarver-Burks has been scoring at an unbelievable pace over the last five games, averaging 34.4 points per game. He scored a jaw-dropping 22 in the fourth quarter alone against Cate on Friday, but it wasn’t enough for Laguna to overcome an 18-point deficit.

“We’re playing our best basketball of the season, and I hate for it to end because we’re playing so good,” said coach Sal Rodriguez, who has sometimes had just six players at his disposal this year, including against Cate.

“He’s basically scoring 80-percent of our points,” said Rodriguez of Tarver-Burks. “I tell you what, in our division, if we get in (to the playoffs), we could make a good run.”

BISHOP DIEGO: The Cardinals went 1-1 last week, with the win coming against Villanova in fine fashion. Wildcats point guard James Engesser, who has always given the Cardinals fits, was held scoreless thanks to the defense of Hayden Slaught.

Coach Ray “Slash” Vazquez said that point guard Paul Garcia had been “really, really out-played” by Engesser last year, but turned the tables this time around. He introduced junior Kyle Holland, who can shoot from the perimeter but has the size to bang around down low.

The Cardinals were set to play at Carpinteria on Monday night before finishing up the regular season against Grace Brethren.

CARPINTERIA: The loss of star point guard Kevin Lusterio has turned a 10-4 start completely around for the Warriors, who have lost eight consecutive games since Lusterio went down with a knee injury.

“To put that into perspective for me, I think this is my 28th year of coaching, and I think up until this year other than my very first year I was coaching I never lost more than four in a row,” said Ward. “So it hasn’t been a very happy time around my house.”

But the Warriors “have been in every game except one,” according to Ward, and Manny Rodriguez is the biggest reason why. Ward said that he has been double, triple and quadruple-teamed throughout the season but is still averaging 24 points and 15 rebounds per game.

“My apologies to any other coaches and people in the county, but I think he’s the best player in the county and has done a great job on that this year,” said Ward.

Also at the luncheon was Trevor Madden, a defensive stopper who has consistently held the stars of the Tri-Valley League to well under their scoring averages.


WESTMONT MEN: Coach John Moore took a helper from Helsinki to discuss his outlook for the rest of the Warriors’ season. He used the Finnish word “Sisu,” which translates to “stoic toughness” or “dogged determinism.”

“I think that’s what it’s going to take for our team to be great for the rest of the season,” he said.

Moore compared the player he brought, Dan Rasp, to Carpinteria’s Rodriguez.

“He scores in more ways than any other player I’ve ever had,” said Moore of Rasp, a junior who reached the 1,000-point mark earlier in his career than any other player in program history.

“I think Manny and Dan are very much alike. Dan gets double-teamed, and sometimes he’ll get triple-teamed. Yet he’s a guy that the more shots he takes, the higher his percentage is,” said Moore.

Westmont hosts Cal Baptist on Tuesday.

WESTMONT WOMEN: Kirsten Moore described last week as “insane” for her Warriors. On Thursday at Concordia, they lost a 28-point lead only to win the game thanks to a clutch free-throw from Jessica Case.

On Saturday, Case scored 24 points as the Warriors defeated visiting Hope International in double-overtime. In the two games, Dos Pueblos graduate Amber Stevens accumulated 34 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists, six steals and just one turnover. Kelsey Hardeman, who began her career as a team manager, had a career-performance with 10 rebounds and seven points in just 15 minutes of playing time against Hope International.

The Warriors host Cal Baptist on Tuesday and play at The Master’s on Saturday.

“These next couple of games will determine if we get to nationals or not,” said Moore.

SBCC WOMEN: The Vaqueros have won five consecutive games and eight of their last nine heading into Wednesday’s first-place showdown against top-ranked Ventura. Female Athlete of the Week Francesca DeAngelis leads the 14-team Western State Conference in scoring at 20.1 per game, and had another big game in the Vaqueros’ 77-65 win at L.A. Pierce last week. She had 23 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks.

“It makes me tired just reporting it,” joked Sports Information Specialist Dave Loveton.

SBCC MEN: David Lane scored 19 points in a 78-65 loss at L.A. Pierce Saturday as the Vaqueros fell to 5-17, 1-7 last week.


DOS PUEBLOS: The Chargers finished second in the Channel League to Ventura once again this year, and the Cougars and Chargers remain the only two teams to ever inhabit the top two league spots at the end of the season.

“(Finishing second to Ventura) has been a big monkey on our back, but that’s alright because we’ve had a good year,” said coach Anthony Califano. “We went 12-3 in duals an qualified 12 kids for CIF on Saturday.”

Along with Califano was junior Abraham Lizama, who took second place in the toughest division at Saturday’s Channel League Championships at Sovine Gym. Also at Harry’s was Chuy Lopez, a senior who was the only returning CIF placer on this year’s roster. He repeated as league champion on Saturday.

The Chargers will begin the playoffs this weekend in San Bernardino.

SAN MARCOS: Male Athlete of the Week Connor Pfefferle won his 147-bout in last week’s loss to Dos Pueblos, and then went on to win the league championship in his weight class. The other two local champions were Lopez and San Marcos’ David Billesbach.

While the Chargers are frustrated by finishing behind defending CIF-champion Ventura, the Royals have felt the same way about finishing behind Dos Pueblos. They fell behind 28-0 at Sovine Gym last week only to battle all the way back and have a brief lead at the end of the match.

“I’ve been at San Marcos for 10 years, and it was the first time that I know of where we actually led a dual meet against Dos Pueblos,” said coach Tony Becerra.

It was 34-33 at that point, but Becerra knew he was going to have to forfeit the 103-pound class, losing the match.

He also introduced freshman Michael Orosco, who finished second in league and has become a rising star to look out for over the final stages of the season, and “Mr. Quiet Guy” Tim Wallis, who will go to CIF after placing third in league.


DOS PUEBLOS: Tovi Eliasen has sure worked some wonders in his two years as coach for the Chargers. Three years ago, the team had just one win on the season. Last year, his first at the helm, they won six, and this year they have won 10 matches and assured themselves a spot in CIF as well as second place in the Channel League. They are the only team to avoid defeat at the hands of top-ranked Santa Barbara, tying the Dons in the first round of league play. They also beat Ventura for the first time in school history.

Eliasen introduced Eduardo Cortes, who made a position change up to forward this year and responded by scoring eight goals and assisting on six other so far. He has six goals and four assists in league play, meaning he’s played a role in 10 of DP’s 14 scores.

Casey Donahue has been the ironman of the program. Of the 1,600 minutes of soccer the team has played, the senior defender has been on the field for 1,586 of them.


Cate junior Jackson Mauze is an all-county and all-CIF third baseman as well as a standout on the Rams’ 8-man football team and soccer squad. He is on pace to earn 12 varsity letters in his Cate career.

He holds a 3.5 GPA and, most importantly, serves as a role model and mentor for younger students.

“It was a no-brainer on who to give this award to today,” said Athletic Director Wade Ransom. “He stands apart in the choices that he makes.”

Ransom said that on three separate occasions officials have come up to him just to compliment Mauze’s sportsmanship, as he always shows respect for the other team and helps people up.

“As teachers, it’s students like Jackson that make us do what we do,” said Ransom.