It’s a “wonder”-ful time for winter sports teams

Ernie Quiroz sometimes refers to his Laguna Blanca girls basketball team as a “Wonder Team.”

“It’s because I wonder what’s gonna happen,” he joked at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon.

With the CIF playoffs for winter sports upon us, there’s lots of wondering going on around the athletic community.

Quiroz is always left wondering because the Owls have been as up-and-down as they come this year. Their low-point came when they failed to score the entire second half in a loss to Bishop Diego, but they have rebounded to 8-2 over their last 10 games.

Female Athlete of the Week Megan McAlister had a dominating performance in the team’s 5-point win over Thacher, which determined the champion of the Condor League. The senior scored 15 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and nabbed seven steals. Laguna, which trailed by 10 at halftime, will host Waverly in Thursday’s first round.

Quiroz said that McAlister gave a halftime talk to her team which really gave the Owls a boost. Her 12 points in the second half didn’t hurt, either.


SAN MARCOS: It’s rare that a player receives Athlete of the Week honors more than once in a season, but J.P. Dodson has led the Royals to a rare feat for the program — a Channel League championship.

The senior point guard scored 29 points with 10 assists and just four turnovers in two crucial wins last week, the first at home against Dos Pueblos and the second on the road at Ventura to clinch the title. The last time the Royals won the league championship outright was in 1991.

“I don’t know how to describe this week,” said coach Jarrod Bradley. “I can’t really put it into words. It’s been pretty magical.”

Adding to the magic has been overwhelming support from the San Marcos fans, particularly the students.

“Other than switching J.P. to point guard this year, I think my best decision ever was to invest $700 in a rooter bus,” said Bradley.

Seventy face-painted, red-wearing San Marcos students made the trip to Ventura, and their presence took a lot of pressure off the team, according to the coach.

Dodson, a 79-percent free-throw shooter on the year, was accompanied by teammate Christian Mkpado. The bruising junior forward has taken 22 charges on the year and is second on the team in field-goal percentage.

The Royals host Mountain View in the first round at 7 p.m. Wednesday.


UCSB: Gregg Wilson is wondering if he’ll collect a milestone 40th Big West swimming championship this week, when the Gauchos head down to Long Beach for the annual conference meet. Should both the men and the women defend their titles, Wilson will have 41 Big West crowns in his 34 seasons at the helm.

“Our men and women, they think they can do this, and it’s far from me to tell them they cannot do it,” said Wilson.

What always makes it a tough task is that the Gauchos are one of the three Big West teams without a diving program, causing them to automatically forfeit 175 points to the two teams that do.

Wilson introduced multi-event women’s swimmers Kelsey Lewis and Brittany Borowitz, both juniors who have good seeds heading into their championship races. Also introduced was senior co-captain Jessica Schwalb, who beat her big sister Jennifer’s school record in the 400 IM earlier this year.

On the men’s side, Wilson brought another co-captain in Olympic Trials-qualifier Chris Wiggin, a butterfly specialist. Sophomore teammates Kevin Ferguson and Chris Peterson — both in the top 30 of their events nationally — were also at the luncheon.


SAN MARCOS: Royals coach Brian Roth was a swimmer for Wilson at UCSB and now he leads a resurgent San Marcos program that is having one of its best-ever season. Wilson gave props to Roth, noting that his oldest daughter was on the school’s first-ever squad.

San Marcos placed third in the Channel League behind DP and Santa Barbara, which was the Royals’ highest finish in league in at least a decade. They clinched it with a 13-5 win over Ventura last week.

San Marcos will play at 10th-ranked El Toro in Wednesday’s first round, which Roth thinks will be a good match-up. A big boost of confidence for the team is that as of a week ago, they are at full-strength for the first time all season.

San Diego State-bound senior Jade Fitzgerald missed five weeks with a broken wrist but was still at every practice and game. She’s back and put up big numbers last week. Roth called junior Brittny Hummel “the rock and backbone” of the team, and Flo Chardon “the best example of a student-athlete at San Marcos.”

Chardon has a 4.9 GPA, which is the best in the senior class.

“Flo is one of the greatest leaders we have at San Marcos, academically and athletically,” said Roth.


UCSB: It’s been a trying season for the defending Big West champions, who lost at Long Beach State on Saturday, 65-62, despite having a 13-point lead with 6:24 left.

“We played a great 38 minutes of basketball, but unfortunately a college game is 40, so for two minutes we kind of disappeared and Long Beach showed up,” said Director of Basketball Operations Araceli Gil.

It’s going to take a lot of luck for the Gauchos to earn a No. 4 seed and first-round bye in the Big West tourney, but Gil said that the Gauchos continue to fight every time they step on the court. The next time for that is Saturday at home against Fullerton.

On February 27th, the final “Legend of the Dome” will be unveiled before the team plays Cal Poly.

WESTMONT: Dos Pueblos graduate Amber Stevens nearly had her second career triple-double in the Warriors’ 95-91 win over Cal Baptist last week, finishing with 14 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Unfortunately, the Warriors suffered some shooting woes on Saturday and fell to The Master’s in Santa Clarita.

The Warriors have five games left, with four of the match-ups coming against teams ahead of them in the Golden State Athletic Conference standings.

“They’re going to need to pull off some upsets in order to get into the national tournament, but that’ll be the goal,” said Sports Information Director Ron Smith.

Tuesday’s road game against rival Biola is where the Warriors will start.

Smith also announced that Westmont will be hosting it’s “Pink Zone” game against Point Loma on Saturday in honor of breast cancer awareness. Anne Cavalli, an administrative assistant in the athletic department, is a breast cancer survivor and will be speaking.

Also, a Westmont student afflicted with cancer will be presented with a check courtesy of the GSAC and the Coaches for Cancer program.

SBCC: Francesca DeAngelis, last week’s Female Athlete of the Week, scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half against Ventura, the state’s top-ranked team. The Vaqs had a lead over the Pirates with 10 minutes remaining but ultimately fell short. They went on to crush Oxnard and have clinched a tie for second place in the WSC North.


BISHOP DIEGO: Jeff Burich’s Cardinals finished up at 18-9 overall and 7-3 in the Frontier League. They’ll play at Thacher in the opening round after crushing the Toads earlier in the season. Should Bishop win that game, they’ll likely face Villanova, whom they lost to in tournament play earlier in the year.

Burich introduced Andrea Garcia, who has been an assistant coach with the program for seven years.


SBCC: Melody Parker was noticeably excited when talking about this year’s team, which is off to a 5-0 start and is loaded with talented players who have Division I coaches raising their eyebrows.

She brought three of her top players, including Dos Pueblos graduate Miles Evans, a 6-4 outside hitter. Evans has 88 kills on the season, and is complemented on the right side by 6-5 hammer Justin Hertlein and libero Andrew Thomasen. Parker said that Thomasen is the best defensive libero she’s seen.


WESTMONT: Coach John Moore brought a pair of brothers who he has known for a long time to Harry’s on Monday.

In fact, he was there when the younger one of them was born.

Johnny and Lucas Miller, whose father was the best man at Moore’s wedding and vice-versa, are a part of a Warrior squad that is on its way to its best record in over four seasons. Lucas, a redshirt freshman, has been limited due to an injury but has come back and been a key player in practice.

Johnny, a senior, was called “exactly what every one of us would wants to have in a college athlete.”

The elder Miller is a musician who’s played in the chapel band, and he’s so involved in the Westmont community that he’s lived on campus all four years — a rare choice. He will receive the Golden Eagle Award later this season.

On the court, he was mainly a practice player for his first three years, but this season he’s a captain who sees plenty of time.

“The reason we’re going to have the best record we’ve had in four years is primarily because of John Miller and the leadership he’s provided for our team,” said Moore.

SPECIAL OLYMPIAN OF THE MONTH: Alexis Ornelas, a student at Carpinteria Junior High, is a basketball player who says he loves to shoot the ball. He’s been playing hoops and soccer with the Special Olympics for two years.

He is coached by Aaron Brown, who has stepped up to the plate by becoming the new sponsor of the award. For his continued improvement and sportsmanship, Ornelas was recently placed on the All-Star team, and will competing in a big tournament out at UCSB in May.

Coach Moore announced at the luncheon that Ornelas will receive a scholarship to attend the Westmont Basketball Camp this summer.