By Stephen Ramirez
SANTA ANA >> It wasn’t for a CIF Southern Section title or even a league crown, but it still was a pretty big milestone for the La Mirada High School baseball team to hang its hat on.Freshman Jared Jones threw six shutout innings and senior shortstop Kevin Kendall had two hits and stole two bases to help La Mirada to its first win in the Boras Classic with a 4-1 victory over traditional power Bishop Amat in a consolation-round game at Mater Dei High.
Joseph McNealey also had a two-run single and Eugene Jeon had an RBI for the Matadores (16-3). Jayson Gonzalez had single and scored a run for the Lancers (14-6), who lost their second consecutive game after winning 10 in a row, including last week’s National Classic in Fullerton.
La Mirada, ranked No. 1 by the Whittier Daily News, will face Aliso Niguel, which defeated Damien 6-2, in a consolation semifinal at noon at Mater Dei Thursday. Bishop Amat, ranked No. 1 by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, will face Damien Thursday at 9 a.m., also at Mater Dei.
“We were disappointed we didn’t get a win (Tuesday),” said La Mirada coach Jim Zurn, whose Matadores opened the tournament with a 5-1 loss to Mater Dei. “But Bishop Amat, with (its) history, is a really good team. We came out and played a really good game. (Jones) gave us a good start, and we knew he would.
“(It’s) our first-ever win in the Boras Classic for our program. It’s very monumental for our school and our city.”
Jones limited Amat to five hits and struck out six to improve to 3-1. He got in trouble just once, but quickly pitched his way out it.
The Lancers, trailing 3-0 in the fifth, loaded the bases with one out following back-to-back singles by Jesus Maldonado and AJ Barraza and a walk to Gonzalez. But Jones struck out Ben Hurst and induced Richard Castro to pop out.
“I don’t think about it,” Jones said. “I just go into the stretch and try to block it out and see what happens.”
La Mirada scored the only runs it would need in the fourth when it took a 3-0 lead. Kendall, a UCLA signee who is considered one of the top shortstops in Southern California, led off with a double. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when a pop up by Jeon was dropped.
Emilio Morales followed with a walk and Nathan Sena singled. McNealey then dropped a two-run single down the left-field line for a 3-0 advantage.
“I really liked the way we swung the bats today,” Zurn said. “We made some things happen with our legs to force the issue and we got some big two-out, clutch hits.”
Amat scored its only run in the seventh. Gonzalez walked with two outs, stole second before scoring on a single by Castro.
“We were just flat,” Bishop Amat coach Joe Hoggatt said. “This is two games in a row that we’ve played flat. Not to take anything away (from La Mirada). We (played under) a lot of emotion last week (in winning the National Classic). We can make every excuse known to man, but the bottom line is you have to come out and play.
“We haven’t met that challenge. But these are all good things for us. They are learning experiences.”
By Stephen Ramirez
WHITTIER >> Whittier High School’s Alyssa Olague has dedicated nearly every waking hour to softball. Tuesday, softball paid her back.Olague, one of the top players in area, signed to play at nearby Cal State Dominguez Hills in a ceremony at the Whittier school.It’s the completion of a dream when she was a little girl and first saw softball icon Jennie Finch play on television.
“It means everything,” Olague said. “I can remember as a little girl and watched Jennie Finch pitch and said, ‘I want to be just like her.’ My dad took me in the back yard and said, ‘We’re going to learn how to pitch.’ He didn’t know, so we looked on Youtube and found out ways to pitch.
“I’ve been through so much, with injuries and other things. It means so much to say it was all worth it.”
Olague, who was honorable mention All-Whittier Daily News last season, is 5-4 with a 2.90 ERA in helping the Cardinals to a 10-5-1 record, including 2-0 in the Del Rio League heading into a showdown against La Serna on Tuesday. She is hitting .263 with four RBIs and four doubles.
She will be able to bring that production to CS Dominguez Hills, which competes in the CCAA.
“It wasn’t really a hard decision,” Olague said. “I went to one of their games and talked to the coach. I saw the girls play, I’ve seen the campus and fell in love with it. I just knew this is where I wanted to go.”
It also helped being close to Whittier, which will allow here family and friends to see her play on a regular basis.
“I love it,” Olague said. “My parents have always been there for me. When I’m pitching I just love my parents being there, being supportive and cheering me on.
“I want them to experience it with me. It’s great.”
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Amy Navarro, El Rancho, Senior
El Rancho High School enjoyed arguably its finest season in girls basketblal in 2017.
The Dons, who have dominated the Del Rio League each of the past three seasons, had a school-record 26 wins and advanced to the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals for the first time.
Senior Amy Navarro was a pivotal force in that success, both as a scorer and defender, but also from a leadership role.
For her efforts, Navarro is the 2017 Whittier Daily News girls basketball Player of the Year.
“This year was amazing,” Navarro said. “It felt great, like knowing your hard work paid off. It was great to experience (setting the quarterfinal milestone) with my teammates. It’s a great feeling.”
But one well-deserved.
The senior was one of the area’s most-balanced players, averaging a team-best 11.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
El Rancho coach Randy Shigezane credited Navarro’s work ethic for her success.
“She’s been a fantastic player,” Shigezane said of the 6-foot Navarro. “I’ve been a coach for 30 years and she’s easily one of the most-improved players I’ve coached in a four-year span at the high school level.
“I told her as a freshman that she could change our program, because we don’t typically get players her size. I told her it was just going to be up to how hard she worked, and clearly by how she played this year it was something we can’t replace. She’s been a perfect player for us, (both) on the court and leading the team. She’s been fantastic.”
The numbers show her improvement. Navarro went from 3.5 ppg as a sophomore to 10.2 last season and 11.6 this winter.
“It really just came down to how much I really wanted to improve,” Navarro said.
The senior, who was co-Del Rio League MVP with fellow senior Brittany Corona, had her biggest games down the stretch, including averaging close to 13 points a game over the final seven and scoring in double figures in all three playoff games.
El Rancho, which won an early-season showdown against area power St. Paul in December, followed up its perfect Del Rio League campaign with playoff victories over Westminster (54-47) and Antelope Valley (46-43) to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time.
The Dons season ended with a 58-41 loss to Bishop Montgomery.
“This was a great year and a good experience,” Navarro said. “It was awesome, especially being with my teammates and experiencing it with my best friends.”
COACH OF THE YEAR
Randy Shigezane, El Rancho
Shigezane, in his 12th season at the Pico Rivera school, the past nine as head coach, has built the Dons into an area power. El Rancho has won five consecutive Del Rio League crowns under his watch, including the past three outright.
The Dons have won their past 28 league games.
This season was arguably the best in school history. El Rancho went 26-5, including 10-0 in winning the Del Rio League, and advanced to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the first time.
“No girls or boys team had ever been to the quarterfinals before,” Shigezane said. “This was a huge accomplishment for us this year. The girls were obviously disappointed they didn’t win (against Bishop Montgomery), but certainly doing something no one here has ever done, it was an unbelievable year. It was special.”
Guard: Meghann Henderson, Sonora, Sr.
Henderson has been a key cog for the Raiders, who have advanced to at least the quarterfinals each of the past three seasons, including making the divisional finals in 2016. She averaged 19.5 points per game this season in helping Sonora go 22-8 and advance to the quarterfinals. Henderson, who is on the all-area team for the third consecutive season, was All-Freeway League and All-CIF-SS Division IAA.
Guard: Lainie James, Sonora, Sr.
James is on the all-area first team for the third consecutive season and a key part of a Raiders team that has advanced to at least the quarterfinals the past three seasons. The senior averaged 18.3 points per game, including making 45 3-pointers. She was All-Freeway League.
Guard: Emma Zener, La Habra, Sr.
Zener is one of five players to make all-area the past three seasons. The senior, who helped La Habra to an 18-10 record, is one of the better shooters in the area and put in 71 3-pointers this winter while averaging 11 points per game. She was All-Freeway League.
Guard: Brittany Corona, El Rancho, Sr.
Corona has been a key player for the Dons and part of four Del Rio League championship teams. She averaged 11.1 points per game in helping El Rancho to a 26-5 record and advance to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the first time in school history. She also made 55 3-pointers. Corona was co-MVP of the Del Rio League with teammate Amy Navarro.
Forward: Na’Lon Smith, St. Paul, Sr.
Smith was one of the bright spots for what was a disappointing season for Swordsmen, who missed the playoffs after winning a 4AA title in 2016. She combined athleticism with shooting ability to be one of the top scorers in the area. Smith, who was 2016 WDN Player of the Year, was first team All-Del Rey League.
Forward: Paris Rivera, California, Sr.
Rivera was a key part in leading the Condors to their best season in program history, which included advancing to the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the first time. She provided an inside presence for California, averaging 13.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. The senior was first team All-Del Rio League and first team All-CIF-SS Division 4AA.
Forward: Marissa Mora, Pioneer, Jr.
Mora helped the Titans to a spot in the CIF-SS Division 4A quarterfinals. She was a force inside for Pioneer, scoring 13.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Mora was first team All-Del Rio League and first team All-CIF-SS Division 4A.
Forward: Lily Perkins, Cantwell, Sr.
Perkins is on the all-area team for the third consecutive season. She averaged double-figures in scoring to help the Cardinals reach the second round of the fourth consecutive season. Perkins, who will attend Eastern Washington on a basketball scholarship, combined athleticism with scoring finesse to become one of the area’s best the past four seasons. She was All-Del Rey League.
Center: Kyannie Brown, Montebello, Sr.
Brown enjoyed a monster season in helping the Oilers go 18-8 and reach the CIF-SS playoffs. She was a force on the offensive side, scoring 13 points and 13 rebounds per game. She was productive against quality opponents, averaging 20 points against top competition, including scoring 17 points in a 54-48 loss to Viewpoint in the first round of the playoffs. She was Almont League MVP, a rare feat for a player from a non-championship team.
Center: Christa Evans, Whittier Christian., Sr.
Evans helped Whittier Christian reach the 4AA quarterfinals. She’s been a top player for the Heralds in previous seasons and really stepped up in 2017, averaging 13.2 points and 10.7 rebounds a game for Whittier Christian, which went 20-10. She was first team All-Olympic League and first team All-CIF-SS Division 4AA.
Guard: Elizabeth Yoshitake, Sonora, So.
Guard, Susy Regalado, El Rancho, Jr.
Guard: Nicole Robles, California, So.
Guard: Valeria Lizarraga, Cantwell-Sacred Heart, Sr.
Guard: Alisia Trejo, Montebello, Jr.
Guard: Joleen Corona, Whittier Christian, Fr.
Forward: Raylene Cosio, Pioneer, So.
Forward: Alyssa Lomeili, Whittier, Sr.
Center: Hannah Mc Arthur, La Habra, Sr.
Center: Lauryn Jordan, La Mirada, Sr.
FINAL TOP TEN
1. Sonora (22-8)
2. El Rancho (26-5)
3. California (19-8)
4. Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary (15-15)
5. Whittier Christian (20-10)
6. Pioneer (19-12)
7. Montebello (18-8)
8. La Habra (18-10)
9. St. Paul (11-16)
10. Whittier (12-16)
Del Rey: Serra
Del Rio: El Rancho
Olympic: Village Christian
Suburban: Cerritos, Mayfair
By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Louis Bangai, St. Paul, Center, Senior
At 6-foot-11 inches tall, St. Paul High School’s Louis Bangai provides a tough match up for the opposition.
But the senior knew if his goal to win a CIF Southern Section championship was to be accomplished, he couldn’t just rely on his natural gifts.
He had to get better.
He did, and the Swordsmen benefited. They came up short in their quest to win the school’s second CIF-SS crown, but led by Bangai, St. Paul advanced to the Division 3A title game, losing to Twentynine Palms in overtime.
For his efforts, Bangai is the Whittier Daily News boys basketball Player of the Year.
“I just knew I had to get better,” Bangai said. “It was very different from last year. Last year, I couldn’t shoot the ball from distance, like (making) a 3-point shot. But this year it was easy. But I worked on it a lot.
“I’m just (tried) to get better. I (wanted) to play with the (mind set) of being a winner.”
It showed up on the court, where Bangai was difference maker for the Swordsmen in the playoffs. The senior, after leading St. Paul to its second consecutive league title for the first time in school history with a Santa Fe League crown, averaged 25 points in the Division 3A playoffs to get his team to the school’s first trip to a CIF-SS final in 16 seasons,
His effort did not go unnoticed.
“He got better by ten-fold,” St. Paul second-year coach Damaine Powell said. “(Success in) sports is 90-percent confidence, and once his confidence got up — and he’s always been a hard worker — he was able to take what he worked on in practice right to the game.
“He just took off from there. Being 6-11, definitely helps. He was going to have an advantage every night. But it was nice to see his maturation.”
Bangai, who was Santa Fe League MVP, showed that fearlessness on the court in the postseason. He scored 22 points and had 10 rebounds in the Swordmen’s playoff opener vs. Eastside (62-44) before scoring 32 and 22 points in wins over Lompoc Cabrillo (61-60) and San Bernardino (56-52), respectively, in the quarterfinals and semifinals. He had 26 points and 16 rebounds in a 70-68 loss in overtime to Twentynine Palms in the final.
“It was a good season,” said Bangai, who has received an offer from UNLV. “We didn’t win the (title), but we learned a lot. We got to the final, which we couldn’t do last year. We didn’t win, but everyone (on the team) learned a lot. We learned how to play, compete, and we were proud of ourselves as a team.”
He didn’t’ go unrewarded.
Bangai earned co-Player of the Year for Division 3A, which is a rarity for a player who is not on the championship team, and now he’s area player of the year. He cherishes both accomplishments.
“It means a lot,” said Bangai, who along with fellow senior Kylan Mann and junior Nate Kasongo formed St. Paul’s terrific trio. “This shows how hard work pays off. I’ve been working hard just waiting for the result; (this is) the result for me.
“I worked real hard to improve my game. I wasn’t surprised to get co-player of the year (in the division) and player of the year in the area. I was proud of myself, and it (motivates) me to keep working hard.”
COACH OF THE YEAR
Damaine Powell, St. Paul
There was a time when the St. Paul boys basketball team was considered the No. 2 basketball program on the Santa Fe Springs campus. But no more. Damaine Powell changed all that. He’s changed the culture at St. Paul, transforming the Swordsmen from an afterthought to one of the top programs in the area. In two years under Powell’s leadership, St. Paul has gone 44-13, winning back-to-back league titles for the first time in school history with two Santa Fe League crowns. This season was special. St. Paul went 24-7 and advanced to the CIF-SS finals for the first time since 2001.
“We just took it one game at a time and before you knew it, we just felt every game we played we could win,” Powell said. “We just took it one game at a time and tried to maximise what we had.”
Powell previously coached at Cal State Dominguez Hills and Compton College.
Guard: Kylan Mann, St. Paul, Sr.
Mann was a key part in St. Paul’s run to a second consecutive Santa Fe League title and it’s first appearance in a CIF-SS final since 2001. He averaged nearly 20 points a game during the playoff run and was first team All-Santa Fe League and All-CIF-SS Division 3A. He had 19 points in the title game loss to Twentynine Palms.
Guard: Nate Kasongo, St. Paul, Jr.
Kasongo was part of St. Paul’s three-pronged attack that keyed the Swordsmen’s run to a second consecutive league title — a first in program history — and their first trip to the CIF-SS finals in 16 seasons. He averaged 15 points in five playoff games and first team All-Santa Fe League.
Guard: Dawit Wilson, Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary, Sr.
Wilson came up big down the stretch to help the Cardinals to the CIF-SS Division IAA semifinals. He averaged 11 points per game for the season and scored about 20 a game in playoff wins over La Mirada, Temecula Valley and Santa Monica. He had 29 against Temecula Valley in the second round.
Guard: Walter Franco, La Serna, Sr.
Franco was part of the Lancers’ one-two tandem, along with forward Cedric Sobers, that keyed La Serna to one of its better seasons in program history. The Lancers won their first Del Rio League crown since 2011 and made a rare trip to the CIF-SS quarterfinals. Franco helped the cause by averaging 12.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He also averaged 3.8 assists and 2.4 steals a contest. Franco was first team All-Del Rio League.
Guard: Khieem Williams, Pioneer, Sr.
Pioneer advanced to the postseason for the second time in three seasons, and Williams played a big part in that success. He proved a challenge both inside and outside and averaged more than 10 points a game to lead the Titans to a 19-9 record and a first-round appearance. Williams was first team All-Del Rio League.
Guard: Jaedyn Bonilla, Schurr, Sr.
Bonilla, a transfer from Cantwell-Sacred Heart, was the missing ingredient to put Schurr over the top. The senior helped the Spartans achieve one of their better seasons, which included a share of the Almont League crown and advancing to the CIF-SS Division 3AA quarterfinals. Bonilla averaged double-digit scoring and co-MVP of the Almont League. He was also first team All-CIF-SS Division 3AA.
Forward: Cedric Sobers, La Serna, Jr.
Sobers, who is on the first team for the second consecutive season, keyed the Lancers to one of their better seasons in history. He averaged 17 points a game to help La Serna win the Del Rio League for the first time in six seasons and advance to the CIF-SS Division 3AA quarterfinals. Sobers was Del Rio League MVP and first-team All-CIF-SS Division 3AA.
Forward: Shemar Morrow, La Mirada, Fr.
If there was a newcomer of the year for basketball, Morrow would get it. The freshman had that big of an impact on the Matadores, traditionally one of the top programs in the area. Morrow put up 17 points per game to help the Matadores finish second in the Suburban League and a spot in the CIF-SS playoffs. He was All-Suburban League.
Forward: Matt Corona, Santa Fe, Sr.
Corona was a key facture in the Chiefs run to the CIF-SS Division 3AA quarterfinals. The senior averaged 21 points per game, including a best 18.3 in Del Rio League contests. He had three games of 36 points or more. Corona also earned three all-tournament selections. He was first team All-Del Rio League.
Forward: Andre Fields, Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary, Jr.
Fields was part of the Cardinals three-pronged attack that also featured senior Dawit Wilson and sophomore Avery Martinez. He averaged double-digit scoring, including scoring a game-high 16 points in a victory over region rival La Mirada in the first round of the CIF-SS playoffs. CSHM advanced to the Division IAA semifinals.
Guard: Alfredo Reyes, St. Paul, Sr.
Guard: Kevin Marlow, Sonora, Sr.
Guard: Nick Colosi, La Mirada, Jr.
Guard: Sean Murphy, Sonora, Sr.
Forward: Avery Martinez, Cantwell, So.
Forward: Austin Carter, Sonora, Sr.
Forward: Daniel Cabrera, La Mirada, Jr.
Forward: Ryan Veljacic, Schurr, Sr.
Forward: Justin Osborn, Whittier Christian, Sr.
Center: Donald Risper, Santa Fe, Sr.
FINAL TOP TEN
1. St. Paul (24-7)
2. Cantwell-Sacred Heart (15-15)
3. La Serna (26-3)
4. La Mirada (22-6)
5. Sonora (25-4)
6. Schurr (22-8)
7. Santa Fe (19-10)
8. Whittier Christian (17-8)
9. Pioneer (19-9)
10. Whittier (16-12)
Almont: Schurr, San Gabriel
Del Rey: Bishop Montgomery
Del Rio: La Serna
Olympic: Maranatha, Heritage Christian
Santa Fe: St. Paul
DEL RIO LEAGUE
CAL 14, LA SERNA 4
WHITTIER >> When California High School coach Tony Nieto protested a call made by the home plate umpire in the top of the sixth inning, it fired his team up.Nieto was upset because La Serna coach Anthony Gonzales had crossed the basepath line in an attempt to meet with his pitcher, Abraham Carrillo. However, Gonzales had already used his maximum of three mound visits and was not going out there to bring in someone in relief.Although Nieto didn’t get the call he wanted, his team got the last laugh as the visiting Condors scored a whopping 10 runs in the seventh inning in a 14-4 victory over rival La Serna in a Del Rio League game on Wednesday afternoon.
California (10-4, 3-1) overcame two two-run deficits before opening the game up in the seventh inning. Condor starting pitcher Mike Gutierrez gave up two runs in the bottom of the first inning to give La Serna an early advantage. Gutierrez surrendered another pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
However, each time the Lancers went on top, the Condors answered back with a pair of runs in the ensuing innings.
After La Serna took a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth, California loaded the bases in the top of the fifth inning to put the pressure back on Lancer starting pitcher Andrew Arguello.
Gilly Rodriguez’ sacrifice fly knocked in the Condors’ third run of the game and a hit batter and walk later, the score was once again tied up.
Senior right-hander Carrillo helped the Lancers escape a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning, but in the seventh things didn’t go in his team’s favor.
Rodriguez led off with a single and was 90 feet away from scoring the go-ahead run after he stole second and took third base on a wild pitch. Senior Michael Saldana drove in Rodriguez with a sacrifice fly to right-center field.
After Saldana’s RBI, the Condors loaded the bags once again, thanks to a pair of walks and a fielding error by sophomore Vicente Garcia. A squeeze bunt, walk and hit-batter later, La Serna found itself down 8-4.
Just when it looked like things couldn’t get worst, freshman Jacob Sharp drove the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence for a grand slam.
Nieto said that even though the Condors went up by four, they never want to let up.
On Wednesday, La Serna (8-11-1, 2-2) had the weaker bullpen. The Lancers used four different pitchers in the disastrous 10-run inning. Nevertheless, Gonzales didn’t want to pin the loss on his bullpen.
Gutierrez (3-1) pitched six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits while striking out four and picked up the victory. Carrillo (2-4).
Cal coach Tony Nieto: “We always want to keep the foot on the gas pedal whenever we have the opportunity because we know at anytime they can hit their way back. We play in a very competitive league, but I think the key with this new pitching restrictions and rules, it’s going to be having a key bullpen.”
La Serna coach Anthony Gonzales: “We play as a team; we don’t look at any individual spots like that. We look at the whole team. We played a great six innings and we were three outs away, but we didn’t finish it. It’s still early in the season, but we have to go back to work on Friday and finish the first-round at hopefully 3-2. If we do that then we’re sitting right where we want to be.”
Cal’s Gilly Rodriguez: “Throughout the game, our coach kept reminding us to never give up and when the fifth and sixth innings came up those are the championship innings. He just reminded us that if you want to be a championship team you have to grind out those innings and stay on top.”
— Will Hernandez
CAMINO REAL LEAGUE
Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary 20, St. Monica 0
DEL RIO LEAGUE
Santa Fe 13, Pioneer 0
Whittier 9, El Rancho 2
Troy 5, Sonora 4
Fullerton 5, La Habra 3
DEL RIO LEAGUE STANDINGS
Santa Fe 3-1
El Rancho 2-2
La Serna 2-2