Softball Preview: Go ahead, who are the best teams and players in 2012? …

It’s almost that time to start thinking about the best teams and players for the 2012 softball season. The top-ranking will surely come from the Sierra, by far the area’s toughest league with South Hills, St. Lucy’s, Chino Hills, Ayala, and who knows, maybe Charter Oak finally claws its way into the mix. Bonita should dominate the Hacienda, Bishop Amat should be favored in the Del Rey and the Valle Vista is wide open. Best player returning? If you’re talking pitcher, probably St. Lucy’s lefty Danielle O’Toole. If you’re talking player, South Hills’ Brittany Rodriguez.

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Football Decisions: Travis Santiago to APU? Steven Rivera to Whittier? Chris Solomon to Colorado? Read all about it

By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
The desire to play quarterback at the next level may be what will send Arroyo High School’s Steven Rivera to Whittier College when he announces his college destination sometime soon.

Rivera, the Tribune’s Player of the Year this past season after shining at both quarterback and safety, is leaning toward Whittier College but he also has interest from Azusa Pacific University, Cal Lutheran and Dakota-Wesleyan.

“He’s really impressed with the coaching staff and the facility upgrades that they have going on,” Arroyo coach Jim Singiser said of Rivera’s thoughts on Whittier College. “It’s a local school and family is really important to him and they’ll be able to watch him play.

“It’s a good academic school and he’s an academic kid.”

What really might put Rivera over the top is Whittier wants him to play quarterback whereas APU wants him as a defensive back.

Rivera threw for 3,408 yards and 38 touchdowns at Arroyo and leaves high school as the Valley’s all-time leading passer in yards and touchdowns. He also ranks in the top 10 in the CIF-Southern Section in career passing yards and touchdowns.

But some recruiters like Rivera even better on defense after watching him record 131 tackles, intercept four passes, force seven fumbles and have five fumble recoveries as a safety.

“If the schools are similar and their financial commitments are similar, then he would rather play quarterback if he has a choice,” Singiser said.

“But if that’s taken out of the equation and he’s only got interest from one school and they want him to be a defensive back, then he’s more than willing to go play defensive back. All things being equal, he’d rather be a quarterback. But he’s got no problem playing on the other side of the ball if that will help him get into college and get it paid for.”

Rivera will attend APU’s recruiting day in February. APU is interested in Rivera only as a defensive back. He also will visit Cal Lutheran after already touring Whittier College.

Should Rivera wind up at APU, he could be teammates with a familiar face in Charter Oak quarterback Travis Santiago. The Tribune’s Offensive Player of the Year this past season still is undecided about where he’ll play next season, according to Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar.

“APU has laid out the red carpet for him,” Farrar said. “I told Travis one of the big things he doesn’t realize is that if you’re living in Oklahoma or Nebraska and somebody said how about Southern California and playing at APU where the beach is 30 minutes away and downtown L.A. is 30 minutes, you’d jump at that.”

Santiago, a pitcher with electric stuff when his arm is feeling good, also could play baseball at APU.

Santiago isn’t the only Charger getting looks. Receiver Chris Gilchrist took a trip to Nevada this past weekend and has an offer from the Wolfpack as well as Sacramento State. Lineman Luis Oliva is deciding between Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and University of Redlands. Defensive back Herman Akins has interest from Southern Illinois.

Solomon looking Buff

West Covina running back/safety Chris Solomon likely is headed to Colorado, according to Bulldogs coach Mike Maggiore. Solomon, the Tribune’s Player of the Year in 2010, has offers from Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico St. and likely will decide as signing day nears next week.

Fellow Bulldogs Justen Meaders, Dorrin Turner and Jimmy Frazier do not have any official offers yet, but Maggiore calls their situations “a day-to-day thing.”

Solomon already has had an official visit to Colorado and is being recruited to play safety for the Buffaloes.

Colts job drawing interest

Covina athletics director Darryl Thomas said Monday the school has received about 12-15 applications for its open varsity football head coaching job. Thomas, who was the previous head coach before resigning earlier this month after 15 seasons, declined to comment on speculation that some big names from the local area have applied.

Covina will stop accepting applications on Friday and will start the interview process the first week of February, according to Thomas.

Thomas, meanwhile, continues to oversee the Colts’ offseason weightlifting program.

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Community continues to show its appreciation for West Covina’s legendary coach and teacher Michael Okura; Funeral Service on Saturday

Funeral Arrangements: Funeral services for Michael Okura will be at the Christs Church of the Valley (CCV) in San Dimas on January 28 at 10 a.m. A reception will follow at Christ First Baptist Church in Covina. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the new Mike Okura scholarship fund for student-athletes.

Since legendary Michael Okura passed away last week after four decades of teaching and coaching at West Covina,
I have received numerous phone calls and emails sharing stories and telling what a wonderful human being he was. I’ve done this for a long time and when you get reaction like this, you know you’re dealing with someone who was very, very special and adored by many. Here are a few emails I received…..

I was one of his players back in the 70’s. Sad day. I know Coach O had a big influence in my life with his dedication and work ethic. He is one of the reasons I’m being inducted to the Washington State Football Coaches Hall of Fame this weekend. Thank you for the great Article. You did him well.Coach Z Cashmere. Washington

Thank you for your brief snap shot of Our Friend, Coach, Teacher and Mentor, Mike Okura. There are not enough pages in your newspaper to express how many lives Mike Okura touched in his lifetime. Mike Okura, a leader of the young people who instilled the greatest of character and the highest level of integrity humanly possible in all of us. He insisted on discipline, yet offered a comforting smile, a laugh and a word of encouragement to help us handle life’s next challenge. God Bless Mike Okura, Thank You Coach a being positive influence in my life at such a young age. You are Loved and You will be dearly missed! A high school class mate said it best, “Ichiban Okura-san”Larry Coyle WCHS ’69-’73

Mike has for quite a few years now has been teaching AP Literature. In that he had an integral role in the education. His teaching style was more than books and tests, he taught his students by example how to become great human beings and how to make a difference in the world. Some of these students have gone on to attend such prestigious schools as Yale, Berkley, Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, Mt Holyoke, USC, UCLA and the list goes on and on. He had a profound effect on the leaders of tomorrow. Teacher Molly Allen

My family first came to know Mike and his family when Mike and my brother, Steven Fox, played Little League and Pony League together in the late 1950s. My dad, Moe Fox, Fred Allen, and Ed Shannon coached in the West Covina Little and Pony Leagues together. I remember Mike as being so serious about his game, always a good sport, and a smile that just melted you. I also remember how his mom, dad, and sister were always at the games, always with a smile, and also showing good sportsmanship, even when things didn’t go the team’s or Mike’s way. Sadly, my dad, Mr. Allen, and Mr Shannon have all gone onto that Baseball Heaven in the Sky, but my 93 yr old mom, Helen, and brother, Steve, will be at the funeral to honor Mike and all those wonderful memories. Linda Fox Adler
WCHS and Edgewood High student/graduate

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Basketball Roundup: Bonita boys still in first in Hacienda; Bonita and Diamond Ranch girls win, ready for rematch on Wednesday

Bonita boys make it look easy: The Bonita High School boys basketball team made a statement in a game with first place in the Hacienda League on the line.
The Bearcats were on fire from the 3-point line and their defense shut down Rowland as they cruised to a 69-37 win Monday night.

Valle Vista League
Wilson 52, San Dimas 36

If you asked Wilson’s coach Tracy Calton if his Wildcats were looking past San Dimas to this Friday’s key matchup against Covina High School, which will probably determine the Valle Vista League champion, you would get a definite no. “Although we knew we get another shot at Covina this Friday, in no way were we looking past San Dimas,” said Calton. “They (San Dimas) are a very good team with an outstanding player in Taylor Jackson so we just focused on them and we got the win, so now we can prepare for Covina.” The Wildcats (16-5, 6-1) turned a 21-15 lead into a 38-26 advantage after three quarters of play and cruised the rest of the way. We won the game in that third quarter,” said Calton. “I told the girls at halftime, we have to do a better job in our inside/outside game and that’s what we did which made the difference in third quarter.”
Wildcats junior center Kelly Calton dominated the boards both defensively and offensively as she grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds (13 defense, 4 offense). “Kelly played outstanding game for us tonight. In that decisive third quarter she was able to control the boards which limited them to just one shot,” said Calton. For the game, the Wildcats pulled down 28 defensive rebounds and 12 offensively.
Sophomore guard Kaelyn Kawamoto contributed to the win with 19 points, which included four 3-pointers and 11 rebounds. Senior guard Angela Choie added 15 points all of which were from beyond the arc and three assists.
San Dimas (11-10, 4-3) was led by Taylor Jackson who was averaging 18 points a game but, was held to just seven points. “Angela (Choie) did an outstanding job on her. She bird-dogged her all night and did not allow her to get into any rhythm.”

Hacienda League
Bonita 54, Rowland 16

The Bearcats stifled the Raiders with an intense and consistent defensive effort. Without contributing a single point, Brianna Kennedy helped sway the game with her 13 rebounds, three steals and five blocks. Malorie Ben and Brielle Jordan each scored 6 points respectively for the Raiders. Nikki Wheatley led all scoreres with 19 points while adding six assists and three steals.
The Bearcats (18-3,6-0) play against Diamond Ranch at home Wednesday.
Diamond Ranch 54, West Covina 47
Chelsea Barnes finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who are 17-5 and 5-1 in league. The Panthers visit Bonita on Wednesday hoping to split the season series and move into a first-place tie with the undefeated Bearcats. Marlena Rodriguez led the Bulldogs with 15 points.

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CIF celebrating 100 greatest athletes ever; who should we nominate from the San Gabriel Valley?

The CIF-Southern Section is celebrating its 100th anniversary in conjunction with the 2012-13 school year by naming the “100 greatest athletes,” in Southern Section history. I will be one of several media members on the panel helping with nominations from the San Gabriel Valley, so this is your chance to help me out. Think of the Valley’s greatest athletes ever, whether dominating one sport or multiple sports, and let me know. Obviously, names like Muir’s Jackie Robinson and Bonita’s Glenn Davis come to mind, but there are so many others.

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Girls Soccer Rankings: Bishop Amat back on top; Sierra League still dominates rankings

Tribune Girls Soccer Rankings
1. Bishop Amat (13-3-4) — The Lancers are at a disadvantage heading to the playoffs because their league is weak compared to the Sierra and others in their playoff division. But the Lancers Lancers have experienced playoff players and are the defending champions, so they won’t lack confidence against anyone when the postseason arrives.
2. Claremont (17-1-3) — Good week for the Wolfpack, who move into a tie for first with St. Lucy’s after the Regents’ loss to Chino Hills.
3. St. Lucy’s (13-5) — The Sierra is too good for anyone to go undefeated. Case in point was Chino Hill’s 2-1 win over the Regents. There are five teams that have a shot at the league title. And that’s not an exaggeration.
4. Chino Hills (13-2-4) — You can never rest in the Sierra. After beating St. Lucy’s they lose to South Hills. The Huskies have a great overall record, but if the playoffs started today, they would be out.
5. San Dimas (14-2-2) — At least Wilson gave the Saints a game before losing 2-0. The Saints are too good for the VVL and have outscored their opponents on the season, 58-13.
6. Diamond Bar (11-3-4) — Still in control of Hacienda after a 1-1 tie with Bonita. Anyone following the Brahmas saw this coming. They were young and talented last year, and are finally putting it together.
7. South Hills (7-2-7) — The bottom line is the Huskies only have two losses in 16 games and scored twice against Chino Hills, something they desperately needed for their offensive confidence. Big picture is clear, whenever you defend as well as the Huskies do, you always have a chance.
8. Sierra Vista (11-2-2) — Are the Dons one of the top ten best teams in the area? They can’t prove it beating up on the weak Montview, but given their recent history, they deserve to be here.
9. Bonita (8-7-2) — Forget the overall record, they’re getting it done in a league with a lot of parity, and its 1-1 tie with with Diamond Bar was the only blemish on the Brahmas’ league record.
10. Ayala (5-7-4) — Let’s face, this is a shocker. I thought the Bulldogs would straighten everyone out in league, but they may miss the playoffs after reaching the CIF title game last year and returning the league’s best player, Makenzie Doniak.

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Boys Soccer: Claremont cleary No. 1; Mountain View, South Hills and La Puente surging ahead

Tribune Boys Soccer Rankings

1. Claremont (14-2-2) — The defending CIF champions are 4-0 in the Sierra and already have defeated Damien and Chino Hills. They can take another big step with a win against South Hills on Wednesday at CDF at 5:30.
2. Mountain View (7-3-4) — Vikings looked terrific in a 4-1 rout of El Monte, but the big game is Tuesday at home against South El Monte. Both teams are undefeated in league with 4-0 records.
3. South Hills (11-3-2) — It was a big week for the Huskies, ending with a 2-1 win over Chino Hills to go 3-1 in the Sierra with a home game Wednesday against Claremont, undefeated in league and the area’s No. 1
4. Damien (8-6-2) — Spartans win twice last week and are very much in the league race with a 3-1 record. They’re tied with South Hills and a game back of Claremont.
5. Diamond Ranch (8-3-1) – They meet rival Diamond Bar on Thursday for sole possession of first in the Hacienda League.
6. La Puente (7-4-4) — Look who’s leading the Montview with a 5-1-1 overall record. There are four teams with a shot at the league title, but the Warriors look like the best of the best so far.
7. South El Monte (6-2-1) — Few thought the Eagles would contend for a league title with Arroyo, El Monte and defending champion Mountain View all playing so well. But the Eagles are 4-0 just like Mountain View, and can take over first with a win at Mountain View on Tuesday.
8. Pomona (8-2-1) — The Red Devils are 6-0 in league and can all but close it out with a win over Baldwin Park on Tuesday. They’re not the most disciplined defensively, but they find ways to win, like last week’s 5-3 win over improved Nogales.
9. Sierra Vista (10-4-2) — If the playoffs started today, the Dons wouldn’t make it, sitting in fourth in the Montview. Only 4-3-1 in league, if the Dons don’t get it going soon, they will be on the outside looking in. The two biggest stories of the season could be Baldwin Park and Sierra Vista missing the playoffs.
10. Baldwin Park (8-6-2) — What’s happening to the Braves? They lose to Covina and Wilson last week, and if they don’t beat league undefeated Pomona on Tuesday, the Braves could fall to fourth in league. What an amazing fall from grace for the defending CIF champions.

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