PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Amy Okonkwo, Etiwanda, Junior, Forward
The first time I saw Amy Okonkwo play this season, I was convinced she was the Player of the Year. Of course, I didn’t see her play until she dropped 27 points on the No. 1 team in the country to lead Etiwanda to a one-point overtime win in the semifinals of the CIF playoffs. Etiwanda’s victory over then-undefeated Santa Ana Mater Dei was certainly the defining moment of the season, but the Eagles had a quarterfinal win over eventual state champion Long Beach Poly and played in the first CIF final in the program’s history, among other accomplishments. It wasn’t a coincidence that this happened in Okonkwo’s first season at Etiwanda.
By all accounts, the junior transfer from Los Osos was just one piece of the puzzle. Her averages of 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds are modest by some standards. Though the 6-foot-1 forward had range that easily extended beyond the 3-point line, she rarely dominated the ball, taking over only when needed. For example, with Etiwanda trailing by nine, Okonkwo scored 10 of her 27 against Mater Dei in the fourth quarter. By the way, the Eagles graduate just two players in the rotation, neither of which were starters.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Anders Anderson, Etiwanda
The fourth-year head coach not only led the Eagles past the quarterfinal barrier for the first time, but to the first CIF final in school history. Etiwanda beat eventual state champion Long Beach Poly in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 1AA playoffs, then handed a Santa Ana Mater Dei team ranked No. 1 in the country at the time its first loss of the season in the semifinals. The best season in school history ended with a 28-4 record as Etiwanda fell to Corona Santiago in the CIF championship game and Long Beach Poly in the state tournament. Continue reading →
The Bonita High School baseball team’s pitching staff was deep before the season began. It has only gotten deeper. The depth of talent perhaps is best illustrated by a pitcher committed to Cal State Fullerton beginning the season in the bullpen.
But Damien transfer Grant Hockin has been so good John Knott, coach of the defending CIF champion Bearcats, moved him into a starting rotation that now includes four pitchers. Well, all four don’t actually rotate. Hockin (4-0, 1.44 ERA) and senior Sam Stavang (3-2, 2.80 ERA) rotate as the third starter behind Parker Merritt (5-0, 0.71 ERA) and Jon Reid (5-0, 1.75 ERA).
“There’s a lot of internal competition right now, but it’s going to be really tough to choose when we get to the playoffs and there’s only two games a week,” Knott said.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jordan McLaughlin, Etiwanda, Junior, Point Guard
It was hard to imagine Jordan McLaughlin entering his senior year without having won a Player of the Year award – similar to how it’s hard to believe Kobe has only won one NBA MVP in 17 seasons – but Jeremy Hemsley and Malcolm Drumwright were certainly viable candidates for the 2013 All-Valley Player of the Year award. Hemsley led Damien to the first CIF championship in school history and Drumwright was an easy direct comparison after his Rancho Cucamonga team defeated Etiwanda in their final meeting to share the Baseline League title.
McLaughlin was edged for the award last season by La Verne Lutheran’s Grant Jerrett, a Freshman at Arizona this season who was not only the All-Valley POY, but the California Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012. Etiwanda’s point guard, who already has a plethora of scholarship offers, didn’t have any gaudy statistics this season (15.6 ppg) but his team’s defensive style doesn’t lend itself to such things. McLaughlin ended any debate, however, by leading his team to the CIF-SS Division 1AA championship by defeating a Mater Dei team that would go on to win its third straight state title.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Dave Kleckner, Etiwanda
His 17th season at Etiwanda was arguably the finest coaching job of Kleckner’s career as the Eagles claimed their first CIF championship in eight years and second in the program’s history. Perhaps the best defensive team ever fielded at Etiwanda held teams to 42 points per game in capturing the CIF-SS Division 1AA title as the sixth-seeded Eagles defeated No. 1 seed Mater Dei, 54-51. Etiwanda finished with a 28-3 record and made the school’s second ever trip to the semifinals of the CIF state tournament before falling in a rematch with eventual state champion Mater Dei.
BASEBALL 1. Bonita (16-2-1) Bounced back from loss, tie to win two 1-run games 2. Kaiser (16-3) Cats have scored double-digit runs in four strait games 3. Los Osos (13-4) Fell into a tie for first after 5-run loss to Etiwanda 4. San Dimas (16-5) Smooth sailing until season-ending series with Northview 5. Diamond Bar (15-3) Building to two-game series with Bonita to end season 6. Carter (12-5) Next up for 1st-place Lions: 2nd-place San G and 3rd-place Rialto 7. Montclair (14-5) One-game lead on hard-charging Chino with five to play 8. Don Lugo (15-6) Followed loss to Monrovia with big win over Diamond Bar 9. Damien (11-7) Race for 2nd in Sierra League promises to be interesting 10. Chino (11-7) Can pull into first-place tie with win over Montclair Tuesday
The awards seem to keep rolling in for Etiwanda point guard Jordan McLaughlin. After leading the Eagles to the CIF-SS Division 1AA championship, the lastest honor is a spot on MaxPreps.com’s Junior All-American fourth team.
The honors, exclusively for juniors, included one other player from the CIF-SS. Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei, the team Etiwanda defeated in the CIF-SS championship game, was selected to the first team and named the National Player of the Year.
Unlike the first two games of the Battle of the Baseline, the last game was up against my deadline and I am sorry I don’t have any highlight or interview video.
But suffice to say that Upland took advantage of Rancho Cucamonga mistakes to tie and win the game in the seventh. The tying run scoring on a throwing error with two outs, and a wild pitch scored the game-winner.
In the bottom of the seventh, there was drama immediately when the Rancho Cucamonga first base coach was ejected when Dakota Oberhauser was ruled out at second after trying to advance on an overthrow to first. But with two outs and no one on, a single and a double put the tying an winning runs in scoring position before Michael Gomez struck out the final batter to end the game.
Etiwanda trailed 3-1 in the third inning Saturday in Game 1 of the Battle of the Baseline against first-place Los Osos. The Eagles scored once, and thought they had tied the score, but didn’t get a balk call despite coach Don Furnald’s vehement argument. Here he talks about the next strategy, a double-steal that tied the game. Etiwanda went on to score five more in the fifth inning en route to an 8-3 victory.
BASEBALL 1. Bonita (14-2-1) A loss and a tie in last five games doesn’t faze Bearcats 2. Kaiser (14-3) 7-0 in Sunkist League, but yet to face second-place Fontana 3. Diamond Bar (14-2) Followed second loss of season with two gutsy 1-run wins 4. Los Osos (12-3) Allowing an average of just one run per game in last six 5. San Dimas (14-5) Big accomplishment to be first in a deep Valle Vista League 6. Carter (11-5) Three of Lions’ losses: Los Osos, Bonita and Diamond Bar 7. Montclair (13-5) Didn’t lose 1st league game until falling to Chino Thursday 8. Don Lugo (13-4) Lost twice to first-place Montclair, but is only a game back 9. Claremont (8-6) Four of six losses have come by two runs or less 10. Ayala (13-6) Big two-game series looming with Chino Hills next week Continue reading →
Could there be fewer teams in the playoffs in the future? CIF-SS Commissioner Rob Wigod, in his regular message on cifss.org, indicated that maybe it’s time for a change.
Wigod wrote that many of those at-large teams which gain entry into the playoffs result in long travel distances and lopsided scores.
“At a time when standards are being raised every year, in relation to high school test scores and college admissions, CIF Southern Section Rule 3214.1 does the opposite, as it lowers the standards for participation in our playoffs,” Wigod said. “I wonder what message that is sending to all involved.”