Bonita pitcher Justin Garza’s incredible season was the top story of the year in 2012 .. Who else made the top ten?

By Steve Ramirez, SGVN
The past calendar year was quite successful for local programs and athletes.
But it was particularly rewarding for Bonita High School baseball pitcher Justin Garza, who set his name in Valley lore with one of the most dominating seasons in history while leading the Bearcats to their first CIF-Southern Section division title since 1951.
Garza, now at Cal State Fullerton, earned All-America honors from Baseball America after going 12-1 with a 0.72 ERA. He capped his historic season by retiring the final 12 batters to lead the Bearcats to a 5-1 victory over Alhambra in the Division 3 title game at Dodger Stadium in June.
Garza finished his final two years 25-1.
“I think I’ve earned it,” Garza said of being Tribune Area Player of the Year. “I think I’ve worked hard these last couple of years, especially (in 2012). It’s a great feeling to be the best player in the area because I know we’ve got a lot of great players out here who come out of this area.”

Here’s a brief look at the rest of the top 10 stories of the year:

El Monte High School’s Brandon Martinez broke perhaps the area’s most cherished records.
Martinez, who helped the Lions earn a share of their first league football title since 1979 with a co-Mission Valley League crown, became the area’s single-season leader with 4,243 yards and 44 touchdowns. He surpassed former Los Altos great Mike Smith (1982) for the yardage mark and Bishop Amat’s Pat Haden (1970) and Los Altos’ Felipe Aguilar (2000) for the touchdown record.
El Monte advanced to the quarterfinals.

Northview has set the bar among area wrestling programs and added to its reputation in February and March by winning CIF-SS Southern Division and Masters titles en route to a solid finish at the state meet. Bobby Salinas led a group of six Vikings to win individual titles at the Southern Division championships and was one of seven competitors to advance to the state meet after the Vikings won Masters.

It was a year of firsts for the Bearcats, who won the school’s first CIF-SS cross country title with a Division 2 crown, then topped it with their first CIF State title, also in Division II. Bonita, led by Marissa Scott, covered Fresno’s Woodward Park course in a combined 94 minutes, 10 seconds. The Bearcats won by 60 points.

Bonita, which made runs at CIF-SS titles the previous three seasons, finally broke through by beating Alhambra for the Division 3 crown. The Bearcats were led by Garza, Tyler Heslop and Thomas Castro. All three were All-CIF-SS Division 3, with Garza the Player of the Year.

The Lancers added to their area dominance by winning their fifth CIF-SS title since 1999 with a Division 3A crown. The Lancers, led by Paulina Santana, Dagmar Ramirez and Leeah Powell, beat Oak Park, 44-30 in the final.

The sophomore showed she’s more than a talented basketball player by winning Division 3 titles in the long and triple jumps. She advanced to the state championships in the triple jump.

The Cougars, after dominating in the NAIA, officially moved up to NCAA Division II for all sports. The early highlight to the move was the football team winning its last four games and finishing 4-7.

The Mounties added to their recent success by winning the school’s fifth California Community College Athletic Association basketball title. Mt. SAC was helped by Ashley Burchfield, who prepped at San Dimas High School, and Leticia Galarza (Bishop Amat).

Mt. SAC saw its streak of five consecutive Southern California Football Association titles come to an end with a 30-21 loss to Bakersfield in the region title game. Mt. SAC had won five consecutive regional titles since 2008.
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Damien survives another thriller to take Covina Boys Christmas Tournament, beats Rowland 59-57

By Richard Hernandez, Correspondent

COVINA – Damien survived a determined Rowland boys basketball team Saturday night in a 59-57 victory in the championship game of the 59th annual Covina Christmas Tournament.

Rowland guard Joseph Dionisio’s last-second layup attempt in traffic missed the rim, securing the victory for the defending champion Spartans.

This year was more of a series of battles and less of a coronation with Damien winning its last three games by a combined 10 points.

Damien (11-4) did not trail Saturday, but it never felt comfortable as the Raiders squandered chances to take the lead.

“They (Rowland) are great competitors and really well-coached,” Damien coach Matt Dunn said. “I watched them all tournament and I thought they were the best team throughout all four days.

“We just found a way to score one more basket tonight.”

Chris Arzadon made a layup and was fouled with 4:08 remaining in the game, and his free throw pulled Rowland even for the first time since the opening moments.

Jeremy Hemsley broke the tie with a short jumper in the lane to give Damien a 51-49 lead.

Hemsley scored seven of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and the sophomore went on to be named MVP of the tournament.

Following two free throws by Dionisio, Damien senior forward Ayo Adedeji converted consecutive layups to extend the lead to four with just over a minute remaining.

Adedeji, Isaiah McCullough, and Jared Dizon were named to the all-tournament team.

“He (Adedeji) has come a long way in his four-year career with us,” Dunn said. “He’s a kid going to Stanford as a student, so we are very proud of him.”

Hemsley made one of two free throws with 14 seconds left in the fourth to put the Spartans ahead 57-55 and set up the failed final attempt by the Raiders that would have sent the game into overtime.

Seniors Dionisio, Arzadon, and Saeed Montoya scored 47 of Rowland’s 57 points. All of their points were scored from the second quarter on.

Rowland entered having outscored its tournament opponents by an average of 29 points.

Damien jumped out to a fast start. Adedeji followed up a 3-pointer with a blocked shot on Rowland’s next possession that led to a layup by McCullough, who also was fouled. McCullough’s free throw capped an 8-0 Spartans run and gave them their largest first-half lead, 20-11.

Following a 3-pointer by Damien’s Keith Cavanaugh to open the second half, Rowland answered with seven consecutive points to close the gap to 33-32. But consecutive layups by Hemsley denied the Raiders the opportunity to take their first lead.

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California, Damien, Rowland and Covina advance to Covina Boys Basketball Tournament Final Four tonight

Covina Boys Basketball Tournament
Thursday’s quarterfinals

California 69, Los Altos 53
Damien 77, Northview 74, OT
Rowland 66, Bishop Amat 29
Covina 64, La Salle

California vs. Damien, 7 p.m.
Rowland vs. Covina, 8:30 p.m.

Consolation Bracket
Sierra Vista vs. San Gabriel, 10 a.m.
South El Monte vs. Garey, 11:30 a.m.
Azusa vs. Mt. View, 1 p.m.
South Hills vs. Charter Oak, 2:30 p.m.
Fifth-place Bracket
Los Altos vs. Northview, 4:30 p.m.
Bishop Amat vs. La Salle, 5:30 p.m.

By John Sherrard
You can always go home.
And that’s exactly where California head coach Jason Van Duyne went Thursday night in a quarterfinal game of the 59th annual Covina High School Christmas Tournament.
Van Duyne, who played basketball at Covina, watched his team defeat Los Altos, 69-53, in a game featuring two different halves.
After holding a 27-26 lead after two quarters the Condors pulled away, particularly at the free-throw line, and cruised to their ninth victory of the season against four losses.
Los Altos fell to 7-4.

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Los Altos, Northview, Damien, Bishop Amat, Rowland and Covina all advance to quarterfinals of Covina Boys Basketball tournament

Covina Christmas Tournament
Monday’s First Round Results

Los Altos 41, San Gabriel 38
Cal 74, Azusa 27
Northview 57, Mountain View 48
Damien 90, Sierra Vista 24
Bishop Amat 50, South Hills 44
Rowland 70, South El Monte 24
La Salle 62, Charter Oak 47
Covina 71, Garey 43
Thursday’s quarterfinals at Covina HS
Los Altos vs. California, 4 p.m.
Northview vs. Damien, 5:30 p.m.
Bishop Amat vs. Rowland, 7 p.m.
La Salle vs. Covina, 8:30 p.m.

Charter Oak-La Salle photo gallery

By John Sherrard

The La Salle High School boys basketball team broke with a long-running tradition of hosting its own tournament this season and may have started a new tradition in the longest-running tourney in the valley.

The Lancers, ranked No. 6 in CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA, defeated Charter Oak, 63-47, in a first-round game of the 59th annual Doc Sooter Christmas Tournament on Wednesday night at Covina High.

La Salle (6-2) will play Covina, a 71-43 winner over Garey, today in a quarterfinal game at 4 p.m., while Charter Oak (4-8) plays a consolation game against Garey at 2:30 p.m.

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What are your top ten high school stories of the year?

We’ll look back at 2012 with the top ten prep/local stories of the year, which runs on Dec. 30. This includes high school and area colleges. For me, the best story was arguably the senior season that pitcher Justin Garza had with Bonita, leading them to a CIF title and finishing 12-1 with a 0.72 ERA. But there were a number of great stories, what’s yours?

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Covina Christmas Tournament top seeds: Damien, La Salle, Rowland, California, Dec. 26-29

The 16-team Covina Christmas Tournament knockout bracket is set with top seeds, 1. Damien, 2. La Salle, 3. Rowland, 4. California.

First Round, Tuesday, Dec. 26
At Covina High School

Top Bracket
Los Altos vs. San Gabriel, 10 a.m.
Azusa vs. California, 11:30 a.m.
Mt. View vs. Northview, 1 p.m.
Damien vs. Sierra Vista, 2:30 p.m.

Bottom Bracket
Bishop Amat vs. South Hills, 4 p.m.
Rowland vs. South El Monte, 5:30 p.m.
Charter Oak vs. La Salle, 7 p.m.
Garey vs. Covina, 8:30 p.m.

You can take this to the bank, my Covina Christmas predictions ….
First Round: Los Altos over Covina JV, Cal over Azusa, Northview over Mountain View, Damien over Sierra Vista, Bishop Amat over South Hills, Rowland over South El Monte, La Salle over Charter Oak, Covina over Garey.
Quarterfinals: California over Los Altos, Damien over Northview, Rowland over Bishop Amat, Covina over La Salle
Semifinals: Damien over California; Rowland over Covina
Championship: Damien over Rowland

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Just Tout it Out!

Twitter brought you 140 characters. Tout is bringing you 15 seconds. That’s Tout’s slogan. I love Tout, which works just like Twitter, only it allows you to send short video clips instantly. Whatever game we’re covering, we can do an interview after the game or record a highlight and Tout it to you within minutes on the blog, through widgets or on Twitter and Facebook. Because we joined forces with Tout, our reporters get 45 seconds, but we want to see what you can do with 15. If you sign up to Tout and friend us just like you would twitter, you can share video you shoot at games. Do your own interview or highlight and Tout it out. We’ll share it. Athletes can record themselves, tell us the final score and share their thoughts on the game. It’s a lot of fun and another way to keep you all involved. You’ll also find this widget on our home page.

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Girls Basketball Top Ten Preview: Bishop Amat No. 1 again

By Aram Tolegian
With nearly of month of games under their belts, things are starting to take shape for local girls high school basketball teams.
Most teams probably have one more stop on the tournament circuit right after Christmas, and soon after that league play begins with championships and playoff berths on the line.
There’s enough evidence to form a strong opinion on the top 10 teams in the area at this point:

1. BISHOP AMAT (9-1)

After sharing the spotlight in recent years with Bonita and Diamond Ranch, the Lancers took it back all for themselves last season by winning yet another CIF championship under coach Richard Wiard … with a postseason win over Bonita along the way.

Although there are some solid teams in the area, Amat should be able to keep the spotlight the entire winter. The Lancers have a bonafide scorer in guard Paulina Santana, a hustling, defensive savant in Dagmar Ramirez, a budding star in Janae Chamois and a high-impact transfer Mauriana Clayton, who is 6-feet tall and plays forward.

As nice as the nucleus of players is, Amat won’t be a premier team as far as the Southland is concerned unless Santana develops into the type of scorer she can become. That means consistently hitting her outside shot. If that happens, Amat is too versatile for most opponents to handle.

The Lancers weren’t able to close the deal earlier this month in the Covina Tournament, but did bounce back to take the Arroyo Tournament. The Del Rey League presents another huge challenge, as every team in the league currently sports a winning record. Amat is certainly in the mix, but needs to be on its best behavior every night.

Local fans should circle Jan.26 on their calendars. That’s when the Lancers take on Bonita at Azusa Pacific University.

2. BONITA (4-1)

The Bearcats still feature the top overall player in the area in point guard Nikki Wheatley.

Wheatley, a junior, will have to shoulder more of the load as the talent level around her has dropped for the second straight season. Last year, Wheatley had a major post threat in 6-foot-3 center Brianna Kennedy, but Kennedy is now playing at Loyola Marymount.

Wheatley, the reigning Tribune Player of the Year, is capable of taking games over by herself. But when the Bearcats play against athletic teams like Diamond Ranch, which can run with Wheatley, they might be in a little trouble.

Bonita gets the nod over Diamond Ranch as far as our Hacienda League prediction, but it’s very, very close.

3. CHINO HILLS (5-2)

We’ll go ahead and call the Huskies the favorites to win the Sierra League.

That’s either saying something, or it’s not, because the league was not a bastion of basketball greatness last season. But Charter Oak lost some key players, as did St. Lucy’s.

The reason things are looking up for the Huskies is the arrival of freshman center Janessa Thropay, who could do some amazing things over the next four years.

Looking around the league, there isn’t a team with an answer to Thropay, who is already averaging 12 points and six rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Emily Ayala is second on the team in scoring behind Thropay and is yet another young talent capable of carrying the team.

Chino Hills already owns a narrow win over Diamond Ranch, so that right there stamps the Huskies as Sierra League favorites.


The Panthers suffered some heavy graduation losses, but this is a program that’s proven capable of reloading.

Head coach Mike James has a roster fully capable of playing a pressuring, up-tempo style and that could lead to many turnovers and easy points for the Panthers. Guard Emilee Dy is an aggressive defender who may be the perfect elixir to Bonita’s Nikki Wheatley when the two teams meet in crucial league games later this season.

Tai Lark, a 5-foot-10 forward, showed flashes last season of being a force.

There’s also solid players in Sydney Cabellon and Lauren Graves. Cayla Freeman, a combo guard/forward, could develop into the team’s top offensive threat.

The Panthers already own a nice win over Muir, so that should tell you just how athletic and fast the Panthers are.

5. DUARTE (7-0)

The Falcons have more than proven their worth by posting two wins over Muir so far this season.

It’s looking like another Montview League championship will be a mere formality for Duarte. Imari Brown is one of the top players in the area as evidenced by her being on the Tribune All-Area team last season as a junior.

Brown is already off to a blazing start, averaging 27 points per game.

Trouble is, unlike past years, Brown doesn’t have the same type of suppprting cast. And that might cost the Falcons in the postseason.

6. GLENDORA (8-2)

The Tartans certainly have a flashy record, but they haven’t come close in their two toughest games of the season against Bishop Amat and Arcadia.

But the feeling is that those losses will actually make Glendora a better team as it braces for Baseline League play next month. The Tartans have one of the top players around in forward Casie Lowden, who is averaging 12 points, eight rebounds and nearly three steals per game.

Lowden will likely be the focal point of opposing defenses in league, which means the supporting cast had better step up. But no other Tartans player is averaging in double figures.

Although Glendora has the second-best record in the Baseline right now, it’s pretty obvious some teams below them have more overall talent. Still, the Tartans figure to give a good account of themselves if their solid start is any indicator.

7. WILSON (5-5)

The Wildcats have been a consistent winner under head coach Tracy Calton, and they look like the favorite in the Valle Vista League.

There’s good returning experience in Kelli Calton and Kaelyn Kawamoto.

Plus, the Wildcats always seem to do the little things right and rarely beat themselves. The losses this season have been to solid opponents and now that they’ve begun league play, we think the wins will start showing up in full force.

8. ROSEMEAD (5-4)

When the dust settles, we’re rather certain that Rosemead will be Mission Valley League champions again.

The Panthers have been hitting the tournament circuit hard and getting back into league play next month will feel like a welcome relief.

Melody Gauthier gives Rosemead the top player in the league and a talent that no league team can truly match up with. The Panthers’ guards aren’t flashy, but they don’t turn the ball over and can knock down the outside shot when needed.

It all adds up to another very solid edition produced by highly successful Panthers coach Jay Gauthier.

9. CHARTER OAK (6-4)

Kudos to Chargers coach Jenny Strycula, who took over a floundering program and in one season made the team respectable and even won a CIF-SS playoff game.

The Chargers lost some size inside to graduation, but Allison Strycula is back to run the point and provides her team one of the better ballhandlers and tenacious defenders around. The question is whether anyone can score.

The Sierra League, after Chino Hills, looks to be wide open. So a team that limits mistakes and can squeeze the most of its talent should go far.

10. WEST COVINA (5-5)

There’s probably no cracking Bonita and Diamond Ranch as the top two teams in the Hacienda League, but there’s certainly no reason the Bulldogs can’t find their way into third place.

The signs are there that this is a team improving at the right time. West Covina lost to St. Lucy’s to start the season, then came back this month and beat the Regents by nearly 40 points. The Bulldogs also posted a win over Charter Oak.

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Boys Basketball: San Dimas gets much needed Valle Vista league win over Baldwin Park

By John Honell, Correspondent

The San Dimas High boys basketball team, bouncing back from a heartbreaking loss in its Valle Vista League opener, took a 4-2 lead at 5:19 of the first quarter and never was headed in a 57-41 win over Baldwin Park at Life Pacific College on Thursday night.
“You can’t think about winning league if you start 0-2,” Saints coach Bruce Robbins said. “If you do, you have a giant hill to climb. You have to win every game on your home floor to be in position to win league.”

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Football: Charter Oak’s Bryce Bobo, Jack Schneider and West Covina’s Justin Hornsby and Muleck Henderson to play in January all-star game

The Canyon-Coast Classic, pitting the Southern California Interscholastic Football Coaches Association (SCIFCA) All-stars vs. the Arizona Football Coaches Association (AzFCA) all-stars will be played on Monday, January 21 at Riverside Community College. For a complete roster and more information, click here

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Boys Basketball: In the shocking world of prep sports, West Covina beat league favorite Diamond Ranch 58-56 in Hacienda league opener

How did West Covina beat Hacienda League favorite Diamond Ranch 58-56 in the league opener?

After trailing by 14 points midway through the second quarter, the Bulldogs (6-6, 1-0) came from behind in the second half and stole a victory from the Panthers.

With four seconds remaining in the game and the scored tied at 56-56, West Covina’s junior guard Jonah Mendoza deflected a pass at Diamond Ranch’s 3-point line. He picked up the ball and raced downcourt to score the game-winning basket with 1.4 seconds remaining. Continue reading

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