Royals claim Channel League title at Ventura

From the bottom to the best.

The San Marcos boys basketball team completed its transformation Thursday night at Ventura High School with a 58-48 defeat of the Cougars to claim the Channel League championship after a 2-5 league season in 2009. It is the program’s eighth league title, with the last one coming in 2001-02 when it split with Santa Barbara. Before that was the 1990-91 season.

The Royals (19-4, 7-1) took control early in the game and staved off multiple rallies from Ventura (15-11, 6-2) to claim the title.

Royals head coach Jarrod Bradley, in his fourth year at the helm and 10th with the program, said that it was his proudest moment as a coach.

“By far, and not just because of winning the Channel League, but also because of the players. They are phenomenal young men, and it’s just the best team I’ve ever coached,” he said.

While Ventura’s fans were their usual boisterous selves, San Marcos’ band of over 100 travelling students and fans gave the Royals an early edge.

“Before the game even tipped off they were cheering and chanting,” Royals Head Coach Jarrod Bradley said. “Our guys were willing to give up even more of their bodies for their friends and for the school.”

The Royals led 14-5 after the first quarter and did not relinquish the lead the remainder of the night. Bradley believes a huge factor in the team’s success is his players’ high basketball IQ.

“One thing about these guys is they’re very, very smart,” Bradley said, “They pick things up quickly.  They understand the adjustments we’re going to make.”

The Cougars closed the gap to 40-36 in the final seconds of the third quarter, but the Royals responded with four straight points to open the fourth quarter and never looked back.

As usual, senior JP Dodson set the tempo for the Royals (19-4, 7-1), scoring nine of his 14 points in the second half.  Chad Ridenour finished with 11 points, including a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach. Senior Benny Kirkwood had a great night for San Marcos, scoring eight points with eight rebounds and four blocks.

The Cougars (15-11, 6-2), CIF finalists a year ago, will compete in the CIF Southern Section’s top playoff Division, I-AA, which includes nationally-ranked powers like Mater Dei.

Coach Dan Larson had no interest in backing away from the challenge, saying, “It’s an honor to be there.”

While the Royals sit five divisions lower in 3-A, there are still a number of Southern California powers such as Gardena Serra, Compton Centennial and Harvard-Westlake to deal with.

“If we play defense like we have, I like our odds,” Bradley said, “(But) our division is stacked.”

SAN MARCOS 58, VENTURA 48

San Marcos…14  13  13  18 — 58

Ventura…5  15  16  12 —  48

SM — Manzo 7, Mkpado 6, Ridenour 11, Dodson 14, Guild 4, White 6, Kirkwood 8, Welsh 2.

Ventura — Houck 19, Garrett 5, Tice 6, Wilson 7, Thomas 1, Gwin 4, Neary 2, Rudolph 2, Koevenig 2.

Free Throws — SM 12-21, V 14-24.

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