Kendall Lauderdale of La Mirada High has been selected as the Whittier Daily News’ Boys Basketball Player of the Year April 1, 2015. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/Whittier Daily News)
PLAYER OF TH YEAR
KENDALL LAUDERDALE, LA MIRADA, SENIOR
It takes a team to win a championship. But while the La Mirada High School boys basketball team’s strength lied in its numbers, it’s hard to imagine the Matadores enjoying the best season in their history without Kendall Lauderdale in the lineup.
The senior’s value to La Mirada was that important. For his efforts in helping the Matadores win the school’s first CIF State title, Lauderdale is the Whittier Daily News Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“I can’t say enough about Kendall,” La Mirada coach Bryce Jones said. “He was just tremendous. In the fourth quarter when we needed baskets against Archbishop Mitty (in the state Division II title game) he it some huge shots; he did that all year for us.
“He’s just a clutch player; wanted the ball in his hands, got the big rebound when we needed it. All year long, did a great job.”
Lauderdale was not only clutch, but also quite productive. He ranked among the area leaders with an 18.4 points per game average, and also had eight rebounds per contest.
He came up big when it mattered most, scoring 28 points in a 77-47 victory over Savanna in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A quarterfinals and had 36 and 18, respectively, in regional quarterfinal and semifinal wins over Canyon (93-73) and Compton (70-57).
He had 18 in the state-title win over Mitty (71-70).
“It’s a great feeling,” Lauderdale said of winning the state title. “It’s a first for me, a first for the guys. We made history and it feels pretty good.”
Lauderdale’s value to the Matadores was also something that couldn’t be measured on the stat sheet. He was the team’s leader, a trait that proved crucial after La Mirada rebounded from a loss in the CIF-SS divisional quarterfinals to its run to the state title.
“I think I really improved my role as a leader this season,” Lauderdale said. “I just wanted to help my teammates get better.”
He showed in the state playoffs as he helped the Matadores to three blow-out wins before scoring victories over Lawndale in the regional finals and Mitty in the state finals.
But strangely enough the state title run was keyed by that loss in the CIF-SS semifinals.
“It put a better perspective on us, after losing to Compton,” Lauderdale said. “We knew we had to play a little harder and work a little harder in practice. We just had to work harder.”
That mentality came into play in the title game.
La Mirada saw it’s dream of a state championship slipping away after it trailed by 12 points late in the third quarter vs. Mitty. But the senior refused to cave. Instead, he put the Matadores on his back, scoring eight of his 18 points in the final period, forcing overtime before La Mirada secured the title on a free throw by Kai Labasan.
“I really didn’t worry,” Lauderdale said. “I had to play smarter. Our coaches kept us prepared. We worked on scenarios, last second shots. I think we were well-prepared. I believed we could pull this out. I was prepared that if we were going to go down, we’d go down swinging.”
COACH OF THE YEAR
BRYCE JONES, LA MIRADA
Bryce Jones came to La Mirada five seasons ago hoping to change the culture.
The Matadores enjoyed their finest hour this season, winning the school’s first CIF State title with an overtime victory for the Division II crown. La Mirada finished 31-5 and also scored its first outright league crown in 32 seasons.
For his efforts, Jones is Whittier Daily News Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
“It’s just a great experience,” said Jones, who is 87-41 in his five seasons at La Mirada. “For the players to be able to travel up to Berkeley, play on TV, play on that stage, it was an incredible experience for them. We were just blessed to be part of that. We had a talented group of players. They deserve all the credit, along with my two assistant coaches. It was a team effort all around. I’m really pleased the way things turned out. I can’t say how proud I am of the guys.”
CENTER: GLIGORIJE RAKOCEVIC, CANTWELL,SR.
Rakocevic was half of the area’s twin towers with teammate Balsa Dragovic. He keyed the Cardinals to a spot in the CIF-Southern Section open division playoffs and the school’s second consecutive trip to the CIF State Division III regional semifinals. He averaged more than 17 points a game and was first team All-CIF-SS Open Division. The senior has signed to play at Oregon State next season.
FORWARD: BALSA DRAGOVIC, CANTWELL, SR.
Dragovic was the other half of the Cardinals’ twin towers. He played a pivotal role in Cantwell scoring a second consecutive invitation to the CIF-SS Open Division and advancing to the CIF State regional semifinals. He averaged more than 12 points a game and was first team All-CIF-SS Open Division. The senior has signed to play at Harvard.
GUARD: JACOB DAVISON, CANTWELL, JR.
Davison answered the question of what type of guard play the Cardinals would get in 2015. He solidified the position and was one of the area’s best outside shooters, providing a nice outside game for the inside game of the team’s post and forward positions. He averaged nearly 14 points a game in helping Cantwell get back to the CIF State regional semifinals.
GUARD: VITTORIO REYNOSO-AVILA, LA MIRADA, JR.
The junior played a key part in La Mirada enjoying its best season in the program’s history, which included the Matadores winning their first outright league title in 32 years and the school’s first state title. He averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game and was first team All-Suburban League.
FORWARD: DEZMON MURPHY, LA MIRADA, SR.
Cantwell wasn’t the only area team to have twin towers. La Mirada also fielded to bigs in the middle with Murphy teaming up with Kendall Lauderdale. He provided just under 10 points and had nearly six rebounds per contest. He was first team All-Suburban League.
GUARD: JOSH RODRIGUEZ, SONORA, SR.
This was a dream season for Sonora as well. The Raiders, a year after losing in the CIF-SS finals, captured the 3AA Division and Rodriguez was the pivotal cog. He averaged 19 points a game, including 89 3-pointers, as Sonora went 29-5 and advanced to the regional quarterfinals. He was Freeway League MVP and Division 3AA Player of the Year.
FORWARD: BEN RICO, SONORA, SR.
Sonora had one of the better outside trios and Rico was part of the mix that also included guards Josh Rodriguez and Christian Rhodes. Rico helped the Raiders to a 29-5 record and the 3AA Division title. He averaged 11 points a game while making 53 3-pointers. He was first team All-Freeway League and All-Division 3AA.
GUARD: JONATHAN MAYORGA, PIONEER, SR.
Mayorga keyed the Titans run to the Del Rio League title. He had the ability to score inside and outside, finishing with a 19.2 average. He helped Pioneer to a 19-9 record, including an 8-2 record down the stretch and advancing two rounds in the CIF-SS playoffs. Mayorga was Del Rio League MVP.
FORWARD: TERAN MASSENGILL, SR.
Massengill was force inside down the stretch for the Titans, who went 19-9 and won the Del Rio League title. He averaged 13 points a game, including 20 points a contest in league play. He also had 10 rebounds per game and one 20-rebound effort. He was first team All-Del Rio League.
MIGUEL SALAZAR, WHITTIER, JR.
Salazar was a key part in Whittier having one of its best seasons in recent memory. The Cardinals, who finished third in the Del Rio League, went 21-6. They won 15 of their first 18 games. Salazar led the team with a 15-point average. He also had four rebounds per game. He was first team All-Del Rio League.
Guard: Christian Rhodes, Sonora, Sr.
Center: Steven Murphy, Sonora, Sr.
Guard: Anthony Newman, La Mirada, Jr.
Guard: Kai Labasan, La Mirada, Sr.
Guard: Elias Zedan, Cantwell, Jr.
Center: Luka Radovic, Cantwell, Jr.
Guard: Jake Mata, California, Sr.
Guard: Christian Alvis-Labadie, Whittier Chr., Jr.
Forward: Cesar Trujillo, Schurr, Sr.
Guard: Aaron Meija, Montebello, Jr.
Forward: Aashad Womack, Sonora, Sr.
Forward: Devin Howlin, La Habra, So.
Guard: Cyrus Shepherd, Cantwell, Jr.
Guard: Anthony Rodriguez, Cal, Sr.
Forward: Nathan Reynaga, Montebello, Sr.
Guard: Anthony Rios, Whittier, Jr.
Guard: Jesse Garcia, La Serna, Jr.
Forward: Noah Losoya, El Rancho, So.
Forward: Joshua Valdez, Pioneer, Sr.
Forward: Justin Osborn, Whittier Chr., So.
FINAL TOP TEN
1. La Mirada (31-5)
2. Cantwell (17-14)
3. Sonora (29-5)
4. Pioneer (19-11)
5. California (16-11)
6. Whittier (21-6)
7. Whittier Christian (17-10)
8. Schurr (14-13)
9. Montebello (13-14)
10. Santa Fe (11-12)
CIF STATE CHAMPION
La Mirada (Division II)
DEL REY: Bishop Montgomery
DEL RIO: Pioneer
OLYMPIC LEAGUE: Maranatha
SANTA FE: Bosco Tech
SUBURBAN: La Mirada