Melendez: Petralia gave us all a good lesson

Above: Alhambra head coach Joe Petralia ,standing, with assistant coach Joe Khouzam, kneeling, in the first half during a playoff basketball game between Roosevelt and Alhambra at Alhambra High. (Keith Birmingham/Staff Photo)


This column appeared in print Feb. 14, 2009, on page C3 of the Star-News sports section.

Some call him “The Godfather.”

It’s not all that farfetched, really.

Joe Petralia has walked the Alhambra High School hallways for 30 years. His slick-backed hair is as unmistakable as his baritone voice.

For 14 years as the Moors’ boys basketball coach he’s stomped his feet and clenched his fist in disapproval — either of a player’s shot or referee’s call — all the while looking like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ magazine.

Whether it was on the court or in the classroom as a U.S. history teacher, Petralia earned his students’ and players’ respect, not that his presence alone didn’t command it.

He’s as no-nonsense as a teacher as he is as a coach. Some might say he’s old school, and isn’t that who our parents would rather us learn from?

It never fails.

Former students and players of Petralia return to the gym on Fourth Street to pay their respects to an Alhambra High icon who for many years stood for what was just, teaching his students and players that there was more to life than X’s and O’s, and that if we paid attention and gave it our best effort we wouldn’t disappoint ourselves.

Friday night was Petralia’s final home game of the regular season. He will retire as coach at the end of the season and then as a teacher at school year’s end.

What better way for a man of his stature to leave than as a champion, clinching his fourth Almont League championship with a 61-49 win over rival Keppel in front of a boisterous home crowd paying homage to the man who took pride turning boys into men with his tough but endearing discipline.

It’s that kind of “tough love” that affected the lives of so many who have gone on to become successful, including this sports writer.
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BHoops: Temple City wins first RHL title in 10 years

Above: Yes, the Rams are indeed the RHL’s No. 1 team.

TEMPLE CITY — James Chen was not going to let his Temple City High School teammates down.

The guard single-handedly led the Rams to the promised land — a Rio Hondo League championship — by scoring 31 points, 23 in the first half, in a 70-52 championship victory showdown against Monrovia in a standing-room only Temple City gym. It ended La Caada’s seven-year lock on the title.

“It’s like a Hollywood story,” Chen said. “We haven’t done it in 10 years, It’s great.”

The teams went into the final regular season game tied for the league lead at 7-2. Chen had three 3-pointers in the first half, Zack Aquino had three 3-pointers in the second quarter and the Rams made 8 of 19 3-point attempts in the half en route to a 43-32 halftime lead.

“I let the first one go and it went in, so I just kept letting it fly and it kept on going on in,” Chen said.

Only twice in the second half could the Wildcats close to within nine points, both in the third quarter.

“There was no fluidity like we needed to,” Monrovia coach Jarod Mix said. “We weren’t running our offense like we needed to.”

Temple City coach Rich Hollinger has been involved in four of the Rams’ five league titles, one as a player in 1978.

Despite the first-half fireworks, the Rams cooled down considerably in the second half. Chen shot 2 of 10 in the half. The 5-foot-10 senior did finish with a team-high 13 rebounds. The Rams missed on all nine of their 3-point attempts in the second half.

“I was really worried because we were a little gassed at halftime,” Hollinger said. “I told the kids, ‘You have to keep driving,’ and then we got our momentum back.”

The Rams built a 58-42 midway through the fourth quarter when the Wildcats were hit with a pair of technical fouls. Chen made two of four foul shots and Aquino, who had 19 points, hit two more for a 61-42 lead.

But by that time, even last-second heroics by Chris Bullock would not have helped. The Monrovia left-hander made two shots at the end of the first two quarters from the halfcourt line at the buzzer.

Above: Temple City’s James Chen being interviewed by the Star-News’ Keith Lair.

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Monrovia AD says Knowles not hired

Monrovia High School athletic director Randy Bell refuted a story published Thursday in the Star-News that reported the school hired Michael Knowles as an assistant track and field coach.

Knowles was fired almost three months ago as Muir’s track and field coach after serving as coach in some capacity or another for 28 years, including the last 10 as girls head coach and six as the boys head coach.

Muir’s administration did not give Knowles specifics for his dismissal, nor has the Pasadena Unified School District.

According to Knowles, he was to be Monrovia’s sprints, hurdles and relays coach.

“He’s a respected track coach,” Bell said. “If he’s someone that’s interested in coaching here, we would explore that possibility.

“Our (track) coach (Randy Hare) and Knowles have talked, but nothing has been determined. (Knowles) is a heck of a coach that we would be interested in, but we have to make reference calls and go through the process.”

Knowles said he had a coaches meeting with Hare on Monday and acknowledged he still needed to take a TB test, fingerprints and have his CPR first aid paperwork current.

“I was under the assumption (Hare) had spoken to (Bell),” Knowles said. “If I was wrong, I’m sorry.”

When Bell read the story Thursday, he asked Hare to clarify.

“Obviously the first person I went to was (Hare),” Bell said. “I asked him if he talked to the (Star-News) but (Hare) said, ‘At no time did I talk to Miguel Melendez.’

“I asked (Hare) if it was his desire to bring (Knowles) on board and (Hare) said yes, but (Knowles) still has to come in for the normal hiring process which goes for paid or unpaid coaches.”

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Will the CIF-Southern Section follow suit?

I found this interesting item in the Daily Breeze preps blog, anchored by veteran preps writer Tony Ciniglio. Click here to check out his well-informed blog.

This story comes from The Associated Press in Albany, N.Y.

Here’s a new play call courtesy of the recession: shorter seasons for high school athletes.

The group that oversees public high school athletics in New York state recently
approved shaved-down schedules next school year as a cost-cutting measure, the
latest to take the step nationwide.

Cuts vary by sport in New York: Baseball teams that play 24 regular-season games
will go to 20, football teams will go from 10 games to 9 or 8, depending on regional

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association says the shorter
schedules allow schools to cut budgets without cutting programs. Critics — including
coaches and kids — claim the new policy unfairly targets student athletes.

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Girls Water Polo: Pas Poly’s bid for win falls short

PASADENA — Suddenly, it didn’t matter that it was cloudy or that the weather obscured the panoramic view of the San Gabriel mountains.

The chilly weather also wasn’t to blame for the goose bumps. This time, it was the resurgent effort and excitement in the pool that found its way into the stands.

Almost as electrifying as the ending was the near comeback from the Pasadena Poly girls water polo team. But Ali Don’s goal with 46.9 seconds left in sudden death propelled La Salle to an 8-7 victory Wednesday afternoon in the Prep League finale.

The Lancers (17-12, 9-3) victory forced a two-way tie for second with the Panthers (13-6, 9-3), but La Salle will be the league’s No. 2 representative after winning the coin toss that took place immediately after the match. Poly will place third.

Despite the loss, Pasadena Poly fans were treated to a match with high emotions and plenty of scoring.

The drama unfolded in the fourth quarter, with the Panthers trailing by four goals. Kelsey Williams started the comeback with a floater from 15 meters out to close the gap to 6-3 with 4:32 left. Liza Starr then made it 6-4 with 2:28 left, but it was Megan Latta’s girl-on-a-mission attitude that really heated things up.

Latta scored from point-blank range with 35 seconds left to pull the Panthers within one, 6-5. Then, after the Lancers were called for a foul, Latta raced to the other side of the pool and timed a well-placed shot over La Salle keeper Lydia Kerns to knot the score, 6-6, with 17 seconds remaining.

The match went into overtime and the Panthers took a 7-6 lead, courtesy of Olivia Russak. Don countered from 9 meters out to tie the score, 7-7.

Each team had a chance to break the tie in overtime, with numerous shots hitting the crossbar or going inches wide.

Don finished with four goals to lead all scorers. Russak and Latta finished with two goals apiece for the Panthers.

Poly won the first meeting — also in sudden death — 10-9.

But not this time.

“It’s always tough to lose a hard-fought game,” Panthers coach Ryan Katsuyama said. “We were down four goals and for my girls to come back and fight back, I’m proud of them for doing that. It was a great game, not just for the players, the coaches, but also the fans.”

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Girls Soccer: Flintridge Sacred Heart has perservered

Above: Flintridge Sacred Heart’s, from left to right, Samantha Norton, Pip Harragin, Bianca Garoian, Sinead Fleming and Isabelle Johnson, all seniors, helped the Tologs shatter the stigma that they’re underachievers. Not this season.

By Miguel A. Melendez
Staff Writer

Tonight won’t be just a “Senior Night” for the Flintridge Sacred Heart girls soccer team.

It will be a day of triumph and jubilation, not just because the Tologs clinched their first-ever Mission League championship, but because of the collective adversity they all had to overcome to reach the steep mountain’s peak.

Never mind the tenuous schedule that is the Mission League. Three of the top five teams in the CIF-Southern Section Division II Top 10 poll hail from the league.

Flintridge Sacred Heart is ranked No. 1 for the fifth consecutive week, and barring any losses the Tologs (15-4-3, 7-1-1) will earn the top seed when the playoff brackets are released Monday.

It was the team’s cohesiveness and unselfish attitude that got them there, but it’s their stronger bond off the pitch that truly resembles the Sacred Heart community, many of whom will arrive in droves when the Tologs take on Notre Dame today at 5:30 p.m. at St. Francis High.

Sinead Fleming, Pip Harragin, Bianca Garoian, Isabelle Johnson, Samantha Norton and Audra Krake will say goodbye, but — like so many others — never in spirit.

Four years ago, former Tologs player Jessica Hanson was in her final year at Loyola Marymount when she died after a car accident on her way to a family vacation.

Three months later, Janet Johnson, one of the team’s coaches, died of an undetected heart condition.

In September, the team accompanied Harragin to her father’s funeral, Mick Harragin, after he lost his battle with cancer.

Just two weeks ago, Flintridge Sacred Heart co-head coach Frank Pace lost his mother.

On the day he returned, Fleming scored the winning goal in the waning seconds to help the Tologs defeat Chaminade, 1-0.

The elusive league title was elusive no more.

After tonight’s game, is over, the girls will give Fleming and her family comfort when they attend her grandfather’s funeral. Kenneth Fleming, 84, died Sunday after suffering from pneumonia and a failing heart.

“It’s funny how life works,” Fleming’s mother, Rebecca, said. “You can experience such joy and pain in the time span of a few days. I know that he is very proud of Sinead. I also know that he is at peace.”

He’s not only in peace, but perhaps overlooking and more than ever so aware of Fleming’s many accomplishments. She will attend New Mexico on a soccer scholarship.

“We have a lot of angels looking down on us this year,” Pace said.

At a recent St. Francis boys soccer home game, Pace couldn’t take more than a few steps before someone congratulated him on the the team’s success.

But the sweet taste of success spreads beyond the team’s enjoyment.

“It means a lot to all the parents and girls in the program over the course of 14 years,” said Pace, who has coached the girls 11 years along with Kathy Desmond, who’s put in 14 years of her own. “We’re getting e-mails and phone calls from people who played here 15 years ago. We climbed a huge mountain.”

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Boys Basketball: Rio Hondo League’s best season ever?

Compiled by Miguel A. Melendez

1. Pasadena (19-5)
Fifth straight title is no surprise

2. Temple City (15-7)
How do Rams drop one to SPas?

3. Alhambra (16-8)
Holding steady atop Almont

4. Monrovia (16-7)
League title could be on the line

5. La Caada (18-6)
Monrovia became a thorn

6. Flintridge Prep (16-6)
Rebels are 7-0 in Prep League

7. Keppel (15-9)
Aztecs getting cold at wrong time

8. La Salle (13-11)
Lancers losing control of fate

9. Marshall (16-6)
First place possibly out of reach

10. Blair (12-9)
Wheels are falling off


Click here for the Almont League standings

Click here for the Alpha League standings

Click here for the Camino Real League standings

Click here for the Delphic League standings

Click here for the overall Freelance standings

Click here for the Mission League standings

Click here for the Mission Valley League standings

Click here for the Montview League standings

Click here for the Pacific League standings

Click here for the Prep League standings

Click here for the Rio Hondo League standings

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Girls Basketball: Muir the undisputed No. 1 team

Compiled by Keith Lair

1. Muir (18-3)
Another Pacific Leage crown

2. Keppel (15-10)
Sweeping to another league title

3. Monrovia (15-5)
Scored pair of big victories

4. La Caada (18-6)
May have to settle for second

5. Pasadena Poly (17-4)
Rematch with Chadwick on Thurs.

6. La Salle (14-9)
Still undefeated in 2009

7. South Pasadena (14-9)
Knocked out of title picture

8. Alhambra (13-9)
Best chance to stop Keppel

9. Rosemead (10-10)
Can clinch share of title today

10. Flintridge Prep (13-10)
Must settle for third place

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Boys Soccer: Monrovia still No. 1 in my books

Compiled by Miguel A. Melendez

1. Monrovia (17-2-3)
Still the best team. Period.

2. Pasadena (10-1-6)
Another tie? Realy?!?

3. St. Francis (12-5-4)
Loss to Loyola was not easy

4. Temple City (5-4-4)
Shocking folks at 5-2-1 in RHL

5. La Caada (15-6-2)
Spartans get revenge, then lose

6. Rosemead (11-4-4)
Scored 18 goals in last 5 games

7. Muir (6-6-2)
Playoffs practically out of reach

8. Alhambra (5-5-1)
Last playoff spot still within reach

9. San Marino (8-9-2)
Titans playing the role of spoiler?

10. Blair (6-8-2)
Vikings a pest to La Caada


Click here for the Almont League standings

Click here for the Alpha League Standings

Click here for the Del Ray League standings

Click here for the Mission League standings

Click here for the Mission Valley League standings

Click here for the Montview League standings

Click here for the Olympic League standings

Click here for the Pacific League standings

Click here for the Prep League standings

Click here for the Rio Hondo League standings

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Girls Soccer: Tologs talk the talk, walk the walk, too

Compiled by Kieth Lair

1. Flintridge SH (15-4-3)
Won first Mission League title

2. Arcadia (13-4-2)
Big game at CV on Thursday

3. Alverno (15-1-1)
Final tuneup today before playoffs

4. Monrovia (6-5-3)
Five consecutive victories

5. La Caada (11-4-3)
A crazy Rio Hondo League finish

6. Maranatha (13-6-4)
Can share Olympic League title

7. Ramona Convent (15-5-1)

Hopes for revenge Thursday

8. South Pasadena (10-7-4)
It’s showdown week

9. La Salle (11-5-4)
Must stop slide

10. Westridge (5-4-3)
Has secure playoff spot

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