SBART Press Luncheon: Hoopsters rebound from serious leg injuries

Bishop Diego girls basketball coach Jeff Burich with players Kylie Koeper, left, and Veronica Morones.

Bishop Diego girls basketball coach Jeff Burich with players Kylie Koeper, left, and Veronica Morones.

Alondra Jimenez, Liliana Ponce, Tyson Miller and Rayshaun Moore should be presented comeback player of the year awards.

The four standout high school athletes are back in action this season after suffering serious leg injuries. Jimenez and Ponce returned to the court for the Santa Barbara High girls basketball team after recovering from torn anterior cruciate ligaments. Miller made a faster-than-expected return to the San Marcos boys basketball lineup after having surgery to repair a torn patella tendon last May. Moore is back leading the Carpinteria boys basketball team and suffering a broken leg in the 2014 football opener.

The four athletes were recognized at the final Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon of 2015.

San Marcos basketball coach Landon Boucher didn’t expect Miller to be back playing until January after having surgery last May to repair a partially torn patella tendon. He played the entire 2014-15 basketball season on it and ran track; he won the Channel League 400 meters.

After the surgery, he trained six days at week at Platinum Fitness in Summerland.

“We thought we were going to get Tyson the first week of January but he’s worked so well in training, doing what he needs to do, and he happened to be back about two months early,” said Boucher of the senior forward.

In the Royals’ recent win over Workman, Miller played 30 minutes, made 5 of 7 field goals and played great defense,” Boucher said. “We’re pumped to have Tyson back with us so much earlier.”

Jimenez, a sophomore, is playing a year after tearing her ACL. “She was cleared to play in September,” assistant coach Carina Gonzalez said. “She has put up some great numbers. You’re going to be hearing a lot about her.”

Jimenez, who was celebrating her 16th birthday on Monday, scored 20 points in the Dons’ Gold Coast Tournament title win over Buena on Saturday.

Ponce, a senior captain for Santa Barbara, suffered an ACL tear just before the CIF playoffs last season.

“She promised me she would work her butt off to get back to play her senior year,” Gonzalez said. “She recovered from an ACL repair in eight months, which is unheard of. She works harder than anyone I know and that is testament to work ethic, drive and passion to play with her teammates and finish out her senior year.”

Moore suffered a horrific broke leg last September that kept him out of basketball season. He’s fully healthy again and tearing it up for the undefeated Warriors.

“He has worked in school and physically to come back this year,” said Carpinteria athletic director Pat Cooney.

Cooney noted the team’s 6-0 start is the best in recent memory. “We’re just starting to scratch the potential,” he said, speaking for coach Johnny Ward. When you’re 6-0, you have to feel good about the upside of your team.”

Cooney introduced Ryan Springer, who rejoined the basketball team and has “become a nice piece of the puzzle.”

The Warriors host the Jim Bashore Holiday Cage Classic starting Friday.

Dos Pueblos: Assistant coach John Slavin said he was proud of how far senior co-captains Elijah Sanchez and Trey Klopstein have come in the four years they’ve been in the basketball program.

He said Sanchez is “very athletic, plays great defense and has the ability to finish.” He’s also a good mentor to younger players.

He called Klopstein “the ambassador of our program. He’s always positive. It’s always a positive thing when he comes into the game.”

Santa Barbara: The Dons are getting solid play from post players JM Cage and Ben Clay.

He said the 6-6 Cage is a “very good rebounder, a good shooter and has a real knack of getting open.”

On the 6-3 Clay: “He’s the heart and soul of our team,” Bregante said. “He does so many things. He gives us strength and power. I have been told by some college recruiters that he’s one of best rebounders they’ve every seen for his size. He’s having a very, very good year. We expect big things from Ben.”

Providence: Coach Steve Stokes said junior Caleb Jones has made the adjustment to point guard.

“Last year, as a sophomore, he broke our school record for rebounds in a season. So why not make him a point guard this year?” Stokes cracked. “He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s not a flashy player; he’s not going to be on ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 plays, but he makes the right play all the time. He’s an important piece for us.”

San Marcos:
Coach Chuckie Roth said the Royals’ victory over Orange Lutheran in the title game at the Villa Park Tournament was a special moment.

“Whenever you go to Orange County, it’s always a challenge to win in their backyard. I was very proud of our girls for that,” he said.

Dos Pueblos:
Former Charger wrestler Tyler Mearce said the last time he attended the press luncheon was in 2004 with Alex Mack, a San Marcos alum and the current center for the Cleveland Browns.

Mearce, a DP assistant, said the Chargers are “going through some coaching changes, so we’re really trying to get our heads around it.” Longtime coach Anthony Califano stepped down after 18 years.

DP is off to a great start to the season. It beat three-ranked teams, including No. 1 Camarillo, to win the Camarillo 10-way tournament. Mearce said Anthony Meza won the deciding match to clinch the tourney title.

He added that junior Ryan Fidel is ranked in the top 30 in the state at 120 pounds.

San Marcos: Coach Tony Becerra said he and Anthony Linebaugh started a football-wrestling camp and it’s helped the wrestling team increase its roster from 11 to 30 kids.

Becerra introduced his two “Adans:” Adan Alvaro, a junior team captain who was a CIF qualifier last season, and Adan “Max” Montiel, a junior who placed third at last weekend’s Northview Tournament.

San Marcos:
Coach Chris Hantgin praised the play and improvement of freshmen guard Juliet Dodson and freshman center Megan Cunnison. He said the team was competitive in three of the four games it played in the Gold Coast Classic.

Santa Barbara: Gonzalez said Cassandra Gordon, Ponce and Jimenez consistently show up for 6 a.m. workouts

“It’s pretty fun to get up early with them and grind it a little bit,” she said.

The sophomore Gordon “brings a lot of tenacity on defense” and is a good rebounder. “I would argue that she probably outjumps any female in Santa Barbara County. She has great vision of the court. In the last four games, she averaged eight or more assists in game,” said Gonzalez.

Bishop Diego: While some coaches complained about the amount of travel their teams have done the past few weeks, Jeff Burich said he has nothing to complain about. “We’ve had six games in two weeks and they’ve all been at home.”

Burich said he’s doing a lot more teaching as opposed to just coaching early in the season. “It’s a big difference, but the players are buying into it.”

He introduced Kylie Koeper and Veronica Morones. He said Kylie “does a good job at motivating and challenging teammates to step up.”

On Morones, who previously played soccer: “She brings a soccer toughness to the basketball court.”

This was the last SBART press luncheon for 2015. It will return on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. The Presidio Sports All-City Football Team will be introduced at that tim