BOYS TENNIS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Neil Tengbumroong, Diamond Bar
By Keith Lair
Neil Tengbumroong can look back at his 2016 high school season and see progress.
The Diamond Bar junior finished second in Palomares League play and lost in the CIF Southern Section regional finals in 2015. This season Tengbumroong won the league title and advanced to the CIF-SS Round of 16 play-in match, earning Tengbumroong San Gabriel Valley Tribune player of the year honors for the second consecutive year.
“It was probably my best season so far,” he said. “I’m showing improvement each year.”
The big boost was overcoming Claremont’s Andrew Leahy, the 2015 league champion. The two players split their sets in team competition and Tengbumroong overcame the Wolfpack senior in the individual league tournament this time.
“That was huge because Andrew Leahy beat me really easily the last time,” he said.
It earned Tengbumroong a No. 1 seed for the CIF-SS individual regional round at the University of Redlands. He defeated two league champions, including Ambassador League champion Deepak Tummala of Webb, 6-2, 6-1 in the regional final.
He was one of the 20 singles players remaining and had to go to the Round of 16 play-in round, one of eight players facing off for the 13th through 16th seeds for the finals.
San Marino’s Derek Chen eliminate Tengbumroong, 6-0, 6-4. It was the second consecutive year that a San Marino player has knocked Tengbumroong out of postseason play.
“It was tough,” Tengbumroong said. “I know Derek and I’ve known him for awhile. We’re good friends and it was rough. … Maybe next year.”
It was one of only four losses this season for Tengbumroong.
Claremont won the league team title, beating Diamond Bar by 11-7 and 10-8 scores. In the CIF-SS Division 2 team tournament, the second-place Brahmas were knocked out by eventual finalist Crean Lutheran of Irvine in the second round.
COACH OF THE YEAR: GARY WARD, ROSEMEAD
It was a dream season.
Rosemead High School finally made its dream match: The CIF Southern Section Division 5 championships.
The Panthers had never been to the final before, so losing to Heritage, 11-7, was not necessarily a disastrous finish.
“I’m very proud of the guys,” said Gary Ward, selected San Gabriel Valley Tribune coach of the year.
It was an unlikely run. The Panthers (15-7, 9-1) tied Arroyo for the Mission Valley League title. Both matches went to games after they tied in sets at 9-9.
Rosemead received the league’s top seed and the No. 7 seed for the CIF-SS playoffs. The Panthers scored a pair of 10-8 playoff victories, against Lynwood in the second round and against No. 3 Downey in the semifinals. They also defeated No. 2 seed, Beaumont, 13-5.
Derek Lam, Arroyo, freshman
Ian Habbestad, Damien, freshman
Ryan Wong, Walnut, junior
Matthew Diamond, Bonita, senior
Bennett Williams, Bonita, junior
Eric Thai, Rosemead, senior
Kenny Luu, Rosemead senior
Dylan Truong, Walnut, junior
Henry Tang, Walnut, senior
Todd Nanayon, Walnut, junior
Jenar Orbita, Rowland, junior
Jason Vuong, Rowland, sophomore
Tommy Folsom, Glendora, sophomore
Justin Lay, Glendora, sophomore
Cobe Benzel, San Dimas, senior
Connor Crabtree, San Dimas, senior
Matthew Mai, Walnut, sophomore
Aaron Yong, Walnut, senior
Angel Bravo, Workman, senior
Xavier Chico, Edgewood, junior
Bryan Figueroa, Azusa, senior
Zayd Alshoushi, Duarte, senior
Peter Vila, Duarte, senior
John Szeto, Rosemead, senior
Hung Tran, Rosemead junior
Manuel Alba, Workman, junior
Andrew Bravo, Workman, junior