BBK: Dons turn it up in 2nd half, finish 12-0 in league

The Channel League title was wrapped up several games ago, but Santa Barbara High’s boys basketball team still had plenty to celebrate after beating San Marcos in the regular season finale at a jammed-packed Thunderhut on Thursday.

First, the Dons roared back from a six-point deficit midway through the third quarter and outscored the Royals 34-7 the rest of the way to win 65-44 and sweep the season series.

Noah Burke drives to the basket against San Marcos. Burke scored 13 points to help the Dons to a 65-44 win.

Noah Burke drives to the basket againstElijah Johnson, left and Bryce Ridenour of San Marcos. Burke scored 13 points to help the Dons to a 65-44 win.

Of more significance, though, the victory completed a perfect 12-0 league campaign, the first team to accomplish the feat since Ventura in the 2010-11 season. The Cougars went on to win a CIF title that season.

Jubilant Santa Barbara High fans rushed out of the stands to join the Dons players at center court to celebrate their accomplishment.

It’s Santa Barbara’s first unbeaten league championship in boys basketball since 2000. The Dons have won 20 straight league games going back to last season.

“Our goal was to win league first and win 20 games and then do some damage in CIF.,” Santa Barbara coach Dave Bregante said. “Hopefully we’ll get a good draw and do some damage.”

Bregante said  he had no expectations to go through the league undefeated.

“I thought three losses would win it,” he said.  ” I thought we’d have three loses, but these kids are tough. We’re not big, we’re not strong, but they got heart.”

Santa Barbara will enter next week’s CIF 3A Division playoffs with a 22-2 record and a No. 4 ranking in the division. San Marcos, which has lost two straight and is 16-10 (5-7 in league), will play in the 3AA Division. The playoff pairings will be announced on Sunday.

Santa Barbara was in a tough battle against an inspired San Marcos team. The score was tied at 25 at halftime and the Dons fell behind 37-31 in the third quarter. But they were starting to find their rhythm. Noah Burke sank a free throw and hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two (37-35) by the end of the quarter.

They put it all together in the fourth quarter. Chris Wagonhurst jolted the Royals with a 3-pointer to start the  quarter, igniting an 11-2 spurt to put the Dons in control at 46-39.

San Marcos coach Dave Odell said it was another case of his team struggling to play with a lead late in a game.

“When we get a 3- to 4-point lead and it’s time to put the clamps down and be a winning team and extend the lead, we kind of take a deep breath and allow the room for a shot,” he said. “And if you give them room for a shot, they’re going to score. My sense was this was another game where we didn’t play for a full 32 minutes. Against them, if you take two minutes off, you’re toast.”

Isaiah Tapia buried a long three after a San Marcos turnover and a steal led to a Burke layup. After Bryce Ridenour scored for the Royals, Tapia knocked down another 3-pointer. Elijah Johnson countered with a trey for San Marcos, but the Royals left Tapia open again and he knocked down another three.

“What turned it on was these guys don’t like to lose,”  Bregante said of the second-half surge. “They knew they weren’t playing well and they knew they didn’t want to give this to San Marcos;  San Marcos is our main rival. I think they felt that they would have felt bad playing the way they did and not giving it their best shot.”

San Marcos scored its last points on a pair of Ridenour free throws to make it 49-44 with 4:09 left in the quarter. Santa Barbara would  score the next 16 points.

“We just picked up,”  Bregante said. “Guys decided, ‘Hey, even though we’re not playing for anything, we’re not going to finish the regular season this way.’

“I knew we’d get going at some point,” he added. “I was hoping it wasn’t until tomorrow in practice.”

Baker led the Dons with 17 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. Tapia scored 16, making 4 of 6 3-pointers, Burke had 13 points and Wagonhurst tallied seven, including his big three to start the fourth quarter explosion

“We needed a big shot and I felt I could step up and make it,” Wagonhurst said. “We needed a momentum changer.  Isaiah hit some pretty crazy threes. Our whole team stepped up in the fourth quarter. We could have played a better game overall, but we got the win.”

Now it’s on to the playoffs.

“We’re super excited about the playoffs,” Wagonhurst said. “We’re not done yet.”

Johnson scored 16 points, Wesley Ghan-Gibson tallied 10 off the bench, Ridenour added nine and Christian Widmer eight to lead San Marcos.


  1. Darrell Putnam says

    No, the 1999-2000 Santa Barbara dons went undefeated in league plus also winning 20 straight games that season…