BBK: Santa Barbara’s run stopped in CIF semifinals

OAK PARK — Even with a No. 1 seeding in its travel bag, the further a team goes on the road toward a CIF Final the more difficult it gets to reach that ultimate destination.

The road for the Santa Barbara High boys basketball team came to end Friday night down the 101 Freeway in Oak Park. The Dons ran into a tough, physical Oak Park team that was in peak form and dropped a 64-57 decision in the CIF 3A Division semifinals.

The loss ended an incredible season for Santa Barbara (25-3), which was trying to reach the CIF finals for the first time since 1991.


Oak Park (20-10) advances to the championship game for the second time in three years. The Eagles were making their third straight semifinal appearance.

Michael Alvarez, Oak Park’s outstanding point guard, led the Eagles with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Cole Micek, his backcourt mate, scored 19 points. Forward Matt Byer grabbed 11 boards.

More than its offense, Oak Park’s defense and rebounding made the difference in the game.

The Eagles played tight on the Dons’ three-point shooters and fought and scrambled for offensive boards.

“They were very aggressive,” Santa Barbara coach David Bregante said of the Eagles. “They got up on our three-point shooters. We didn’t get a lot of three-point shots. They did a good job driving us off the three-point line.

“They were pretty physical and strong,”

Oak Park coach Aaron Shaw said denying the three-pointer was part of his team’s game plan.

“Our goal was to come in and take away the threes and keep them to one shot,” he said.

The Dons made just 5 of 24 from behind the arc. In most games this season, one player would knocked down five treys.

The other area that was key to the outcome was rebounding. The Eagles grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the game. It started early. Alvarez and Micek scored back-to-back baskets after offensive boards to give Oak Park a 14-10 lead in the first quarter.

“One of the things we always talk about is rebounding equals rings,” said Shaw. “That’s a slogan we’ve had for the whole season. If we want to win, we got to control the boards.”

Said Bregante: “That’s one of our weaknesses and they took advantage of it. We gave up a bunch of second shots and that was probably the difference in the game, the second shots. We didn’t get very many and they got a bunch.”

Alvarez buried a three-pointer with two seconds left in the quarter for a 17-12 advantage.

Bubby Vernon shot the Dons back into the lead at 18-17, when he came off the bench and nailed consecutive treys early in the second quarter.

At that point, Santa Barbara appeared to find its groove. The Dons converted a turnover into a dunk by Jack Baker and Chris Wagonhurst made a layup to give them a 22-20 lead.

But Oak Park got it going again. Robert Vetti tied the score and Micek made two free throws after he was fouled on a breakaway by Vernon to put the Eagles back into the lead.

A pair of Santa Barbara turnovers led to baskets by Alvarez, giving Oak Park a 31-24 advantage at halftime.

The Eagles continued to scrap in the second half and opened up a 46-35 lead going into the fourth quarter. Alvarez capped the third quarter with a brilliant dribble drive for a layup just before the buzzer.

“We went box-and-one and we still couldn’t stop No. 2,” said Bregante of Alvarez. “No. 3 (Micek) was killing us. We just couldn’t get a stop. We ran out of options.”

With a trip to the finals on the line, Santa Barbara came out hard in the fourth quarter and scored seven straight points. The Eagles ended the run by throwing a long pass that was tipped to Alvarez, who drove in for a basket.

Then came the back-breaker for the Dons. Oak Park missed a three-pointer but it scrambled to get the ball back and Micek buried a three for a 51-42 lead with 5:15 left.

Santa Barbara got as close as five (54-49) on a three-pointer by Bolden Brace, but Oak Park answered with a three-point play by Jon Lee.

“Alvarez is our leading scorer, but we all win with our other guys,” Shaw said.

Burke scored 19 points to lead Santa Barbara, Brace added 12 points and Jack Baker finished with 10.

“it was a great year; I love these kids and I’m going to miss them,” Bregante said of his seniors. “What can I say, the kids played hard. We didn’t play our best, but (Oak Park) had a lot to do with that,”


  1. Andre the Giant says

    Great run Dons! Congrats on getting to the semis and having a great year. Here is a list of the recent history of our local teams in the semis.

    81 Royals won 95-65 vs. Newbury Park at the LA Sports Arena. The Royals would lose the final by 2 pts to LB Poly also at Sports Arena. This very well could have been the best high school basketball team that many from the SB area have ever seen. The finished 26-1. 12-0 in league.

    88 Dons lose to Capo Valley 92-75 @ Saddleback JC. Lead by future UCSB star Paul Johnson the Dons would lose to a team that had two 7 footers and Todd Marinovich.

    90 Royals win vs. La Mirada @ Biola College. Coach Lav goes back to his college days and win at rival Biola to reach the finals where they would lose to the best team in the country Artesia who was lead by Ed O’Bannon.

    91 Royals lose 65-63 to Woodbridge @ Irvine HS. The #1 ranked Royals lose on a off night. They finished the Channel 14-0 in league.

    92 Royals lose to Kennedy 57-55 @ SBCC. Lead by All-America Rob Ramaker the Royals lose on a tough shooting night.

    94 Dons lose 70-57 to Inglewood @ Morningside HS. The Wood was lead by Paul Pierce. The Dons finshed 14-0 in league.

    95 Chargers win vs. Estancia @ SBCC. They would lose the final to the NBA Collins (Jason & Jarron) brothers at the Pond.

    98 Chargers lose 82-48 to Dominguez @ Compton CC. Dominguez was lead by future NBA player Teyshawn Prince.

    03 Dons lose to Inglewood 51-43 @ SBCC. Back and forth game also ended up being a tough shooting night for the Dons.