A round of applause for coaches who led their teams to great things

Yesterday’s Top 10 featured the top team performances of the past school year. Now it’s time to highlight the coaches, who don’t get nearly enough credit most of the time.

Naturally many on this list are ones from team’s we spotlighted yesterday. And yes it’s hard to narrow it down to just 10. I also wanted to include some that weren’t obvious choices, so here goes . . .

10. Ben Davies, Alta Loma girls soccer (24-5)
The Braves looked to be a true threat to win a Division 5 CIF title all season. Then star player Leah Pruitt went down with what looked like a season-ending knee injury vs. Montclair on Jan. 28. There was a brief hiccup the next game as the Braves lost to Colony. But they regrouped nicely, even without Pruitt to win the league title. Pruitt amazingly returned vat the end of the season and Alta Loma managed to get to the quarterfinal before losing to Palm Desert 3-0.

9. Jackie Robinson, Los Osos track
The Grizzles took five athletes to the state competition and four of those placed in a total of five events. There were two athletes in the throwing events but the other athletes were all in different events. Versatility indeed.

8. Luis Garcia, Don Lugo football (6-5)
This one might surprise people but the Conquistadores weren’t on anyone’s radar. They haven’t been good – 3-7 in 2013 and I picked them last this year. Well they went 6-4 under a first-year coach and were third in the Mt. Baldy. Only a 9-7 loss to Chaffey kept them out of second. The Conquistadores turned in an admirable performance in the playoffs, losing to perennial title contender Monrovioa 26-20 in overtime. They also took the Milk Can from local rival Chino which had dominated them as of late.

7. Christine Howard, Colony girls basketball (22-9)
The Titans went all the way to the Division 2A CIF title game before falling to South Torrance 57-56. They were the co-champion in the Mt. Baldy League with Alta Loma, splitting regular season games with the Braves. Colony also got that far with a balanced offense, not relying heavily on any one player.

6. Tishanna Pope, Alta Loma volleyball (36-3)

The Braves had no competition in the Mt. Baldy League so the toughest task for Pope was trying to find a way to keep her team sharp and focused when they didn’t have an equal. Teams that lack competition in the regular season frequently crash and burn in the playoffs – not the Braves who won a CIF title and finished as state runner-up.

5. Jason Schmelzeisen, Chaffey boys  soccer (22-2-5)
The Tigers had a tough task at hand just in Mt. Baldy League play and they finished first, not securing that outright title until a 4-3 overtime win against Ontario the final game of the regular season. That win also came despite playing a man down. Chaffey got to the Division 3 title game before falling to Cathedral 2-0.

4. Randy Bohlmann, Damien volleyball (26-7)
The Spartans won the Division 5 CIF title this season, getting past the quarterfinal for the first time in school history. Bohlmann started the program five years ago so he was the one laying the foundation. Now he is reaping the benefits. The Spartans also did a masterful job of shutting down a marquee player in the CIF title match.

3. Dave Kleckner, Etiwanda boys basketball (24-9)

OK, he’s one that could be on the list every year. And maybe the Eagles didn’t win the Baseline League for the first time in more than a decade. But it was how his team bounced back after that. His team beat both Chino Hills and Damien the second time through league play. It made a run to a CIF final that included a win AT Mater Dei and one over Sierra Canton to whom it lost earlier in the season. The Eagles stayed in the elite Open Division in basketball, losing a SoCal regional semifinal to LA Fairfax.

2. Keith Richardson, Pomona football (11-4)
Richardson had to right the ship and keep his team focused amid numerous distractions, the most notable being the dismissal of the head coach right before the playoffs. Richardson, then the defensive coordinator, took over and did just that. He was officially rewarded with the head coaching position.

1. Matt Dunn, Damien boys basketball (29-5)

The Spartans move from one league into the Baseline, probably the most competitive in all the Southern Section. And they win nine of 10 league games, finishing ahead of Etiwanda and Chino Hills. They lost a second round Open Division CIF game to Orange Lutheran but capitalized on the second chance and won a state title in Division 3 in that portion of the playoffs. A lot of coaches have trouble getting a team up for the state playoffs after a CIF run. No problem here. Some said the Spartans would have been better off in Division 3, a probable easy winner, and not in the Open. Dunn said, “Bring it On.”

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Miles Oliver of Etiwanda shows maturity beyond his years

Miles Oliver talks about being the youngster on a veteran team.

The Etiwanda Eagles came up short in the Southern Section Open Division championship, falling to Bishop Montgomery 56-50 on Saturday at the Honda Center.

The Eagles had issues tonight that hadn’t plagued them all season. Poor shooting (29.1% from the field), ill-timed turnovers, foul trouble to a key player. All played a role. Despite those woes they still almost won.

Coach Dave Kleckner said earlier in the week sophomore point guard Miles Oliver was the team leader. That’s a little surprising given his youth and the fact that he has more seasoned varsity players in some of his seniors.

But when Oliver went to the bench in foul trouble early in the third quarter the Eagles were a different team. By the time he came back it was too late.

He had perhaps the biggest moment of the game when he knocked down a 3-pointer to make to cut the deficit to 53-50 with 14 seconds left. A not so great moment soon followed when he air-balled the free throw that owuld have completed a 4-point play.

After the game Oliver, Kameron Edwards and Delewis Johnson accompanied Kleckner to the post-game interview podium. That’s tough for professionals, let alone youngsters that are still reeling from the disappointment. But all handled it well.

You learn lessons win you win but probably learn more when you lose.

Oliver publicly apologized for the fouls he picked up that proved costly. His poise and demeanor were an example of what Kleckner described earlier in the week.

This kid is going to be fun to watch over the next two years and the shining moments are sure to far outnumber the sub-par ones.

And he gets bonus point for the unique hair!

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Garrett Carter leads Etiwanda boys to victory

Garrett Carter of Etiwanda talks about being the hero in 52-49 win over Mater Dei.

Every good basketball team has a go-to player right?

Well, wrong?

The Etiwanda boys basketball team has a roster full of go to players.

The Eagles turned in a thrilling 52-49 win over Mater Dei on Tuesday in the Open Division semifinal and have earned the right to face top-seeded Bishop Montgomery for the championship of the Big Boys Division.

It was junior guard Garrett Carter with the heroics – a game-winning 3-pointer, a key defensive rebound and couple of free throws all in the last 15 seconds of the contest.

Asked after the game who the final play was drawn up for, coach Dave Kleckner said “whoever was open.”

That says two things. One, Klecker and his coaches trust their players on the floor to make the right decisions.

Second, he trusts any player on the floor to make that shot if they’re the one that gets the ball. No need to rely on one guy.

That’s why Etiwanda wins year in, year out. They have an excellent coach, maybe the best in the business. It has players that buy into the system and are all invested in their role. And no one is bigger than the team.

Other schools and other coaches should take a cue from what Kleckner has built at the school.

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Etiwanda preps for rematch against Mater Dei


Few high school games will match the intensity and drama that surrounded the Etiwanda-Mater Dei boys Open Division semifinal last year. It was won by Mater Dei 67-64 in double overtime.

It was Jordan McLaughlin throwing down all the clutch shots for Etiwanda and Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei answering each one.

McLaughlin went on to USC, although he is now injured, while Johnson is doing good things at University of Arizona as a true freshman.

The teams will play again Tuesday night, again at Mater Dei, again the Open division semifinal Hopefully this one will be just as compelling.

With Dave Kleckner in charge you know the Eagles will be ready. They’re playing as good as anyone right now.

Just who will be the stars of this one? Most likely it will be those who were supporting players last year.

For Etiwanda look for senior Kameron Edwards who has spearheaded the charge the last month. He will be the force inside. Look for senior Delewis Johnson and sophomore Miles Oliver to ignite the perimeter game.

For the Monarchs there are several standouts – most notably senior guard Rex Pflueger, who is headed to Notre Dame, and junior forward MJ Cage. Pfl;euger is deadline if left alone from 3-point rage while Cage has been a beast in the post.

The Chino Hills-Mater Dei game didn’t live up to billing. But Etiwanda matches up better because it has Edwards at 6-6 and senior Jordan Naughton, 6-10, in the paint.

Chino Hills didn’t have an answer to that.

I’ll keep you up to date from the site. You can follow me on Twitter @MGardnerSports.



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Open Division basketball bids to come out Friday

The CIF will announce the Open Division bids for basketball at 3 p.m. on Friday. There probably won’t be any drama when it comes to what local teams are selected.

The Baseline League teams all play their last game today but those won’t change anything.

Damien (22-3, 8-1) is a shoe-in. The Spartans finished first in the difficult Baseline League and took three of four head-to-head meetings with premier teams in Etiwanda and Chino Hills. That’s reason enough to include them. But they also have some quality wins out of league to bolster their resume.

Etiwanda (19-7, 7-2) finished second to Damien. The Eagles also beat both Chino Hills and Damien the second time through league play after losing the first time to both. Like Damien, Coach Dave Kleckner’s team has played a top-notch schedule.
And heck, they’re Etiwanda. History alone would indicate they’re deserving.

Chino Hills (9-15) will likely end up third in the league. Yes there was a matter of those nine forfeits. But the Huskies had a great run in the Open Division last year, advancing to the final before losing to Mater Dei. They have played national caliber schedule. And they have a marquee attraction in Team Ball. They’re going to be in, even if they end up fourth.

On the girls side the lone team that should get in and will is Etiwanda (15-6, 9-0). The Eagles are a perennial title contender on the girls side too. Even though Coach Anders Anderson graduated nine players, he’s still loaded. And he has probably played the most difficult schedule of any team anywhere.

Despite graduating so many players the Eagles still won every league game by 20 points or more. Yes they have a game left but it will be a win. They’re in too.

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Etiwanda boys basketball team peaking at the right time

The Etiwanda boys basketball team has been among the state’s elite under the direction of Dave Kleckner.

The Eagles struggled a little earlier this year, likely because they were working through some growing pains after graduating their go-to player the previous few years in Jordan McLaughlin.

A scarey thought for future foes – the Eagles are clicking on all cylinders now.

The lost to both Damien and Chino Hills the first time through Baseline League play. They crushed both the second. They may have been dethroned by Damien but they have shown they’re stilla force to be reckoned with.

Senior Kameron Edwards, who has signed with Pepperdine, is leading the charge and has emerged as that go-to player. Then there’s the consistent contribution of another senior Delewis Johnson.

The Eagles (19-7, 7-2) also have some solid role players and they’re pretty deep.

They’re not a foe anyone is going to want to see in the playoffs.

Here’s what the players had to say after a convincing win over Chino Hills Tuesday night.

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Etiwanda’s Kameron Edwards commits to Pepperdine


Etiwanda High School basketball standout Kameron Edwards has committed to Pepperdine.

Edwards was a first-team Baseline League and All-Inland Valley selection as a junior, helping the Eagles to the Open Division semifinals where they lost in double overtime to national No. 1 Mater Dei. He was also a second-team All-CIF selection.

Edwards, a 6-foot-5 forward, averaged 13,6 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds in his first year as a varsity starter. His sophomore season was limited because of a broken ankle.

Edwards also made an official visit to Santa Clara with unofficial trips to University of San Diego, UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton.

“The scenery is just beautiful,” Edwards said. “I really enjoyed the people I met and I like the direction the program is headed.”

Edwards also welcomed the chance to get the decision made so he can focus on his senior year. He is also close to his family and preferred to stay close enough they can come see him play.

“I want to be able to just worry about practice and games and not all the other stuff,” he said.

With the departure of Jordan McLaughlin (to USC), Edwards his expected to have an even more prominent role for the Eagles this season.

Edwards plans to major in something in the business field.

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Etiwanda’s Jordan Naughton chooses Wyoming


Etiwanda High School basketball standout Jordan Naughton has committed to NCAA Division I Wyoming.

The 6-foot-9 center helped the Eagles to a Baseline League title and spot opposite Mater Dei in the CIF Open Division semifinals.

With the Eagles having graduated their top two players in Jordan McLaughlin and Kenny Barnes, Naughton will likely have a bigger role the coming season.


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McLaughlin heads Baseline League Boys Basketball selections

MVP – Jordan McLaughlin, Sr., PG, Etiwanda

First team
Kenny Barnes, Etiwanda
A.J. Bigornia, Glendora
Kameron Edwards, Etiwanda
Victor Joseph, Rancho Cucamonga
Daylan Lawrence, Rancho Cucamonga
Nate Olowo, Alta Loma
Marquis Reed, Upland
Levi Smith, Los Osos

Second team
Jamar Akoh, Los Osos
Dominick Alexander, Etiwanda
Brandon Brothers, Glendora
Nick Culver, Rancho Cucamonga
Jordan McNellys, Rancho Cucamonga
Tide Osifeso, Los Osos
Thomas Rico, Glendora
Deangelo Stowers, Upland

Honorable mention – Oliver Amajoyi, Los Osos; Brian Beard, Rancho Cucamonga; Kyle Bracy, Glendora; Blake Fisher, Rancho Cucamonga; Shawn Garey, Alta Loma; Ryan Henry, Los Osos; Solomon Hunt, Upland; Delewis Johnson, Etiwanda; Anthony Kirkwood, Alta Loma; Dominique Mosley, Upland; Jordan Naughton, Etiwanda.

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Etiwanda dominates Baseline League Girls Basketball selections


MVP – McKynzie Fort, Sr., Etiwanda

First team
Alexis Alexander, Rancho Cucamonga
Alyssa Anderson, Etiwanda
Cherice Harris, Etiwanda
Alex Lindsey, Rancho Cucamonga
Amy Okonkwo, Etiwanda
Camille Parker, Alta Loma
Daeja Smith, Etiwanda
Irie Stokes, Upland

Second team
Paven Argyle, Glendora
Niah Curry, Los Osos
Olivia Habern, Glendora
Kyla Martin, Etiwanda
Kiana Mathews, Rancho Cucamonga
Sharon Ramirez, Los Osos
Amari Terry, Alta Loma
Olivia Watkins, Upland

Honorable mention – Sky Artega, Glendora; Megan Butterweck, Los Osos; Chariya Chilson, Upland; Alisa Davis, Los Osos; Megan Jeske, Alta Loma; Dominique McLaughlin, Etiwanda; Mazelle Millina, Etiwanda; Sheldyn Odom, Alta Loma; Kelly Sera, Glendora; Lakenya Ysaguirre, Upland.

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