Gauchos at their peak going into Big West Tournament

Dave Campbell likes what sees in the UCSB men’s basketball team as it heads into this week’s Big West Tournament.

The two-time defending champion Gauchos open against Pacific on Thursday.

“If there’s ever time to be playing your best basketball, it’s right now, Campbell, a Gaucho assistant, said at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Cafe. “And, I can honestly say that the Gauchos are playing well right now.”

He recognized the performance of Athlete of the Week James Nunnally in the wins over Pacific and UC Davis. Nunnally had a season-high 28 points and a career best eight assists against Pacific and a team-high 21 points against UC Davis.

“James has always played in the shadow of Orlando (Johnson), and I think right now people are really understanding how good he is,” said Campbell. “When you have those two guys playing together, it’s probably the best 1-2 punch UCSB has ever had.”

Westmont women’s basketball coach Kirsten Moore has a do-it-all player in Tugce Canitez, who’s led the Warriors to the GSAC regular season and tournament championships.

“Tugce has a good shot at being national player of the year,” Moore said. “She will be a finalist. She was GSAC Player of the Year. She has been incredible.”

Moore reminded everyone to check out the NAIA national tournament brackets when they are released on Wednesday at 4 p.m. She’s hoping the Warriors receive a No. 1 seed.

UCSB women’s basketball assistant Heather Zurich informed the luncheon crowd that the Gauchos open Big West Tournament play Tuesday at UC Irvine. The Gauchos are seeded sixth.

“Hopefully, we get a win and move on to Anaheim,” said Zurich.

UCSB baseball coach Andrew Checketts hopes to provide Gaucho fans with some more wins at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

“The home field hasn’t been too good for us,” he said. “The crowds have been great … we’ve had a ton of people come out to watch us, but we haven’t played very well at home. We’re 4-0 on the road and 2-5 at home.”

Checketts pointed out that his team is leading the Big West in offense and is second in pitching. “Unfortunately, our defense is towards the bottom.”

He finished his talk by saying he was heading out to practice to work on defense. “We’re going to have an all-defensive practice with no hitting to get that worked out.”

Westmont baseball coach Robert Ruiz said he was pleased how his club split a series with No. 10-ranked Biola.

“We took two on the road to split the series and that got us going in the right direction for this week,” he said. The Warriors play Point Loma.

Ruiz noted the performance of Tim Leary, who got a pitching win in the first game and went 6-for-7 with three home runs and nine RBIs in Saturday’s doubleheader sweep at Biola.

Longtime Santa Barbara High assistant coach George Rempe introduced smooth infielder Kenny Crawford and power-hitting first baseman Khalil Pipersburg.

“Kenny’s as good an infielder we’ve had,” he said. “Khalil is a little bit of a work in progress. He’s one of a number of Pipersburg athletes who have played at Santa Barbara High.”

The Dons face a big week of games, playing home games against San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, St. Joseph on Thursday and traveling to face CIF No. 1 Harvard Westlake on Saturday. The Dons beat the Wolverines in last year’s quarterfinals.

“They’ll have blood in their eyes,” said Rempe.

SBCC baseball coach Jeff Walker made his luncheon debut.

He said the Vaqueros went 6-8 against nonconference opponents that were all ranked in the state preseason top 20.

“We had some ups and downs but we’re really excited going into conference,” he said.

Walker introduced shortstop Steven Reveles, who is batting .323 and has 15 RBIs, and No. 1 pitcher Brendan Shoemake, who is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA.

San Marcos boys volleyball coach Roger Kuntz brought defensive players Cody Martinez and Kyle Estabrooks. A three-year starter, Estabrooks is the team captain and an All-Channel League player.

“He’s the best libero in the Channel League,” said Kuntz.

The Royals (2-0) play host to Santa Ynez and Arcadia this week before defending their title at the Arcadia Tournament on Saturday.

Bishop Diego golf coach Pete Georgi presented the Round Table with a check for $2,500. The money was raised from the Lauren Ashley Herrera Memorial Golf Tournament.

Georgi is counting on sophomores Trevor Taimuty and Jack Braniff to lead the squad. Taimuty was the team MVP last year as a freshman.

San Marcos and Dos Pueblos swim coaches took the podium before meeting each other in the pool on Friday.

San Marcos girls swim coach Brian Roth said he almost didn’t have enough swimmers for last week’s Channel League Relays. Fortunately, Megan Riley and Hannah Koper overcame ailments to compete in the meet.

Royals boys coach Jeff Ashton said Ahbi Sarkor-Frandsen is his fastest sprinter and Benjamin Hasland-Gourley is a swimmer to watch. “He came out last year and blew me away with his natural talent,” said Ashton.

Kevin Kuga said Ryan Montag is the team’s best individual medley swimmer and backstroker. Grant Schroeder is a sprinter and a significant part of the relay teams and the team in general.

“If the team makes a serious run at Channel League, they will have a significant impact on it,” said Kuga.

On the girls side, Kuga brought Laurel Kistler and Sarah Jamison. He called Kistler “the glue that keeps the team together.”

Jamison swims the 50 and 100 freestyles, the same events Kuga excelled in at DP.

“I’m encouraged by how she swims and over overall leadership abilities,” he said.