Pressure mounts in late-season games

Bishop Diego girls basketball coach Jeff Burich holds his nine-month-old son while speaking at Monday's Press Luncheon

Whoever thinks a goldfish and basketball have nothing to do with each other was obviously not at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Press Luncheon.

It was an important connection for Bishop Diego’s girls basketball coach Jeff Burich, whose playoff-bound team turned its Tri-Valley League season around after adopting a small goldfish before a big game with St. Bonaventure.

“Unfortunately Prince Chuckles is now swimming in the big fishbowl in the sky, but it was a great 27-cent investment into our team,” Burich said, explaining how the fish was able to relieve the pressure of a big game a few weeks back.

The pressure is even greater now, as winter sports teams begin CIF playoffs this week. Any edge, even coming from Prince Chuckles, can be crucial at this time of year.


For San Marcos boys basketball coach Jarrod Bradley, it was the three players with him at Harry’s. Christian Mkpado, Kevin Vasquez and Johnny Manzo combined for 47 of the Royals’ 57 points in their playoff-clinching victory over Dos Pueblos last week, which was accomplished in front of a crowd that Bradley estimated at a 1,000 people.

“It was a really magical game for us,” Bradley said.

The San Marcos coach said he’s been talking about handling the pressure in front of crowds like that all season long. He used a quote from tennis great Billie Jean King.

“She said that ‘Pressure is a privilege,'” Bradley said, and credited his seniors with getting the job done when it counted.

For Westmont’s men’s basketball coach John Moore, his edge is often luncheon attendee Preston Branson. The sophomore guard from Dallas is Westmont’s leading scorer on the season, and, as Moore put it, “pressure is a privilege for Preston.”

ONE FOR ONE: Providence Hall’s girls basketball team reached the postseason in its first year of CIF eligibility, finishing its season with an 9-9 record. Lions coach Ariana Gnekow brought three players – Megan Hahs, Faith Emerson, and Olivia Barroca – to the luncheon ahead of Thursday’s playoff opener at Coast Union.

“We really improved in the second half which helped us make playoffs for the first time,” Gnekow said.

THE PINK ZONE: Westmont women’s head coach Kirsten Moore was wearing pink but pointed out that it wasn’t because of Valentine’s Day. No, the color choice was in reference to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Pink Zone, which will have over 1,000 women’s basketball teams across the country wearing pink this week.

The Warriors will do so in Tuesday’s home game against The Master’s at 5:30 p.m., and UCSB’s team will wear pink on Sunday when hosting Seattle University at 2 p.m. SBCC, although not at the luncheon, will also participate by wearing pink in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. regular-season finale with Hancock.

SPORTS HISTORY IN THE MAKING: Another big moment for women’s sports will occur on March 5th, when San Marcos and Birmingham High School meet on the baseball diamond. Royals senior Ghazaleh Sailors spoke at the luncheon of the momentous occasion, which will feature two female pitchers starting against each other for the first time in a high school game.

“I have the privilege of being one of those pitchers,” Sailors said, inviting the community to attend the game.


Former Round Table President Dave Pintard fought off some sniffles at the podium to present the Phil Womble Ethics in Sports Award to two recipients on Monday. Cate School’s Lela Puckett and Bishop Diego’s Paige Sleep were nominated by their schools for their outstanding leadership qualities and sportsmanship.

Puckett, accompanied by Cate Athletic Director Wade Ransom, thanked her coaches, Ransom and her family back in Amarillo, Texas for their support.

“Thanks to the Round Table for presenting me with this prestigious award,” Puckett said.

Sleep’s contributions at Bishop are many, and Pintard pointed out that Paige wasn’t the first in the family to receive the Womble Award. The junior has eight varsity letters and has been active in theatre at school.

“I’m truly honored to get this award and thank you to my parents especially, and to those of you who nominated me,” Sleep said.


San Marcos goalkeeper Hannah Harrah

Hannah Harrah, San Marcos soccer – Harrah helped San Marcos’ girls soccer team pick up its only point of its Channel League season last week by stopping an impressive 17 shots against Dos Pueblos. The Chargers entered the game as the league’s highest scoring team and the Royals held them scoreless for only the second time in league play.

Ismael Soriano, Carpinteria boys soccer – Being the Warriors’ leading goal scorer all season long, it was fitting that Soriano came through with four goals in the Warriors’ Tri-Valley League clinching victory last week. Soriano added an assist in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Santa Paula. The senior has tallied 23 goals in total this season to lead the Warriors to a 16-3-3 record.