CIF-champion Cardinals setting tone for local March Madness

Bishop Diego's girls basketball team

Bishop Diego’s girls basketball team wearing special CIF Champion t-shirts.


Bishop Diego’s CIF Champion girls basketball team helped fill the Ranchero Room at Harry’s Cafe on Monday, not even 48 hours removed from winning the title on Saturday afternoon in Santa Ana.

Jeff Burich named each one of his 13 players and gave thanks to those that supported the team. Kylie Koeper, Summer Soto, Christina Rogers, Jordyn Lilly, Marissa Quintana, Ann Bentajado, Deja Goodwin, Morgan Wallace, Sienna Gonzalez, Andrea Castellanos, Celine Rivera, K’lei Martinez and Hannah Rogers wore matching CIF t-shirts commemorating their victory.

“They’ve just done everything that’s been asked of them this season,” Burich said. “And playoff-wise, I couldn’t be more proud, more happy for how they carried themselves on and off the court.”

Burich thanked a handful of people, notably Cardinals Athletic Director Dan Peeters and the many basketball coaches in the community who have helped Burich as a coach. He mentioned Sal Rodriguez, John Ward, Jeff Lavender, Araceli Gil, Andrew Butcher, Jeff Azain, Ray Vasquez and David Bregante by name.

“It’s going to sound like an Academy Award speech,” Burich joked.

He noted that it’s the third year in a row a local girls basketball team has won a CIF Championship and that it felt good to carry the torch following Providence in 2013 and Santa Barbara High in 2014.

The Cardinals’ season is not over. Bishop Diego hosts a CIF State Tournament game on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Butcher’s Santa Barbara High girls couldn’t repeat as champions but did well enough to earn the sixth seed in the Division-2 bracket of the CIF State Tournament. The Dons play on Wednesday at home at 6 p.m., followed by the boys game at 7:30 p.m.

Butcher brought Jada Howard, Kimberly Gebhardt and Sophia Torres to the luncheon.

March is always an exciting time for basketball and the college teams from Westmont and UCSB are fired up for the postseason.

Warriors women’s head coach Kirsten Moore said her team’s loss in the GSAC Tournament was a disappointing one but that she’s still confident they’ll have a place in the NAIA National Tournament when the pairings are released on Wednesday. Moore is seeing signs that the loss will help motivate her players.

“Every time we’ve lost our team has gotten better,” Moore said.

Warriors men’s coach John Moore scolded himself for a poor coaching performance in Saturday’s GSAC Tournament quarterfinals.

“The only guy who did anything well was the bus driver,” Moore said. “He got us there on time and he got us home safely so we’re grateful for the bus driver but we weren’t grateful for the way we played or the way I coached.”

Redemption is now possible.

“There’s no better place to be than to play in the National Tournament and to continue playing in March and that’s what we get to do,” Moore said.

Like the women, the men will learn their tournament fate on Wednesday. In a change from year’s past, both the men’s and women’s NAIA tournaments will be played in the same city, Kansas City, Missouri.

UCSB’s men’s basketball won eight of its last nine Big West Conference games to earn the second seed in the conference tournament. Gaucho senior Alan Williams was the Athlete of the Week for scoring 26 points with 19 rebounds and two blocks in Saturday’s 64-56 win over Cal Poly.

While the basketball teams are hitting the apex of their seasons, high school spring sports are just getting underway. Volleyball, track & field, softball and baseball were represented.

Former San Marcos volleyball coach Roger Kuntz was there to introduce his former player and replacement Jon Newton, a San Marcos alum who played collegiately at SBCC and Ohio State.

“Thanks to the Round Table; I know you thought you got rid of me last year but I wanted to do this right with a new head coach coming in,” Kuntz said.

Newton admitted he doesn’t like public speaking as much as his former coach so he would keep things brief. Newton brought his three senior captains: Greg Kronen, Sean Estabrooks and Jake Pighetti.

Crosstown rival Santa Barbara was there represented by players Kyle Skinner, Hayden Millington, Jasper Rhodes, Cord Perera and head coach Chad Arneson. The Dons have moved up to Division 1 this season.

“We have a tough schedule but we’re looking forward to it,” Arneson said.

It’s all sunny skies in Santa Barbara but Westmont just returned from Geneva, Ohio and the NAIA National Indoor Championships.

“Yesterday we were in Cleveland having snowball fights,” said Warriors head coach Russell Smelley. “There were 15 inches of snow on the outdoor track. I have a recruit here from Wyoming and as we were riding over here he said, ‘uh, is it like this all the time?’ and I said, ‘no, it’s usually warmer’.”

Westmont senior Elysia Mitchell (Hodges) was named female Athlete of the Week for repeating as NAIA National Champion in the 600 meters. Westmont finished a school-best fifth place.

Carpinteria hosted the Rincon Races last week.

“We’re not outstanding anywhere but I think we’re pretty good across the board,” said Warriors head coach Van Latham.

With coach Latham were Gabi Montes de Oca, Gaby Fontone, Gabriel Zapien-Ybarra and Greg Elizarraraz.

The softball teams from San Marcos, Dos Pueblos and UCSB reported.

The Chargers, CIF champions in 2011, are dedicating their field to legendary coach Dale Okinawa at Wednesday’s home opener. Head coach Jon Uyesaka introduced Veronika Gulvin and Lauren Marmo. Both players are strong students in the engineering academy.

San Marcos head coach Jeff Swann said his team continued a tradition of making valentines and visiting a convalescent home as a team-building activity this year. Junior Cara Christian and sophomore Hailee Rios will be big pieces of the team. Rios was an honorable mention for athlete of the week for going 9-for-15 with nine RBI and two HR at the plate and totaling 31 strikeouts pitching without allowing an earned run in three appearances.

UCSB softball is off to a slow start, forcing Gauchos head coach Brie Galicinao to make some changes. Taking away cell phones on the team bus is one such measure. Galicinao is hoping a return to home this week will help after several weekends of playing tournaments on the road.

Marty Davis’ UCSB men’s tennis team is half-way through its season and undefeated at home so far. The Gauchos host Hawaii on April 1.

UCSB’s men’s volleyball team is also about half-way through its season. The Gauchos are battling for an MPSF playoff spot but are 3-0 against Pac-12 schools. UCSB can go 4-0 this week when it hosts UCLA on Friday.

Santa Barbara High’s baseball team begins Channel League play on Friday at home against San Marcos. Dons hitting coach George Rempe brought four seniors: Huck Haber, Matt Murray, Steven Denlinger and Johann Alfaro.

“These are the types of kids you want to be around, period, whether you win, lose or draw,” Rempe said.

Haber is a right fielder and has one of the best swings on the team according to Rempe. Murray can play three positions including pitcher. Denlinger hurt his throwing arm last year but his he’s showed his bat works fine with a “blistering line drive” last week against Lompoc. Alfaro is an outfielder who came to the program as a senior and has shown raw talent.

The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon returns to Harry’s next Monday. The Round Table’s annual Prelude to March Madness is also next Monday with special guest John Vallely at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion.