The five best moments of the 2013-14 prep season around Whittier

From September to June, high school athletes from around the Whittier area provided some thrilling moments for fans to enjoy. Memories that stand out include a game-winning last-second 3-point basket by Abel Ramirez that led to Cal to a thrilling 52-51 Del Rio League victory over Pioneer, and Cassandra Hair’s put-back bucket in the final seconds at home that helped Whittier rally for a 53-52 triumph over Santa Fe.
During baseball season, Santa Fe and La Serna played 11 scoreless innings in the rain before the Chiefs scored twice in the top of the 12th for a 2-0 victory and an early share of first place in the DRL. And in the season opener for both teams, St. Paul opened edged Santa Fe 6-5 thanks to a walk-off hit by freshman Julian Sansores. Just minutes before, the Chiefs’ Eli Ledesma tied the game with a home run to right field.
On the softball field, St. Paul ended years of Del Rey League frustration by sweeping rival Bishop Amat in three games, including a 10-7 marathon at York Field that clinched a share of the league crown.
But some moments separated themselves from the others, either with thrilling endings or come-from-behind performances or by sheer competitive nature.
Here are the top five:
Click here to see Whittier Christian volleyball photo gallery

5. Whittier Christian’s girls volleyball team lost the first set of its CIF Division 2A semifinal against Troy in the Warriors’ raucous gym. But behind 26 kills from senior Kylee Wolfe, the Heralds fought back for a 19-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-19 victory. Four days later, they swept Mayfield to claim their second consecutive 2A crown and began a state tournament run that was only ended by eventual state finalist Corona Santiago.

4. What ended as the best playoff run ever for the boys basketball team at Cantwell-Sacred Heart actually began with heartbreaking loss against the best team in the state. The Cardinals opened the CIF postseason in the highly competitive Open Division, and they nearly knocked off unbeaten Mater Dei. Senior guard E.J. Mejia made 4 of 7 3-point shots and finished with 18 points as CSHM took Mater Dei to overtime, the only team to do so all year. The Monarchs eventually pulled out a 66-59 victory on their home floor, but not before Cantwell put a huge scare into the Mater Dei faithful. The Cardinals eventually qualified for the Division 4 state tournament and eventually reached the Southern California final, losing to eventual state champ Bishop Montgomery. After barely surviving against CSHM, Mater Dei ended the season at 35-0 and claimed its fourth consecutive state title.


Photos of La Serna’s CIF final victory in girls water polo

3. La Serna’s girls water polo team avenged its loss to Troy in the CIF Division 4 championship game a year earlier by claiming a thrilling 5-4 sudden-death triumph in a finals rematch in March. The teams ended regulation tied at 3, and each scored once in overtime to force the sudden-death period. Both teams turned away a scoring chance by the other, including a shot by Troy’s Marissa Vaccher that rebounded off the inside of the post. But Lancers freshman Carissa Perez took a cross-pool pass from Bella Villa and ended the affair with a lob shot over the outstretched arms of Troy goalie Jessica Harris. Senior goalie Jacqui Verdugo was also outstanding for the Lancers, turning away a 5-meter penalty shot in the first half and several point-blank attempts in the second.

Click here to see photos from the St. Paul-La Serna CIF softball final

2. The softball teams from St. Paul and La Serna officially ended the season with a 2-2 record against each other, but the Swordsmen earned the most important victory of the season, a 2-1 decision in the CIF Division 3 final. St. Paul senior pitcher Koreen Orozco was brilliant all day, allowing the Lancers just two hits while inducing 17 ground ball outs. Krystal Gutierrez got the Swordsmen on the board with a first-inning double off La Serna ace Jamie Wren, and Niko Walker added a sacrifice fly later that brought in Bryanna Campos. The title was the first for St. Paul since 1988, and a few days later they were selected the State Division III Team of the Year by CalHi Sports.

Click here for the La Serna-Norwalk photo gallery

1. La Serna’s 41-38 double overtime football victory over Norwalk in the CIF Southeast Division final was, quite simply, one of the most exciting sporting events I’ve ever covered, at any level. With La Serna quarterback Frankie Palmer and Norwalk super back Rashaad Penny leading the way, both teams played spectacularly. Penny scored four TDs – two on the ground and two through the air – and finished with 211 total yards. Palmer added three touchdowns of his own on 105 rushing yards, and he also scored a 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter that forced OT. But his finest play came on fourth down in the second overtime period, with his team trailing by three points. The senior dropped back and first looked to his left for an open receiver. Seeing no one, he rolled right and found Matthew Rosales wide open for a 19-yard touchdown that gave La Serna its first CIF football title since 1967. La Serna tied the score in the fourth after Tony Ceron blocked a Norwalk field goal attempt, and Kevin Ramos returned the ball 75 yards for a TD.

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Kim Brooks returns to classroom at La Mirada but not to field

La Mirada High’s Kim Brooks has returned to his teaching position on the campus, he confirmed Tuesday, but is still suspended as athletic director and baseball coach.
Brooks was suspended by the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District last month after an audio tape of a profanity-laced tirade directed at the baseball team was released. He confirmed Tuesday he’d returned last week to his position as a social studies teacher but said there had been “no word” as to whether he’d return to his positions in the athletic department.
Brooks took part in Monday’s graduation ceremony, and many of his supporters showed up to an NLMUSD public meeting last week.
Brooks’ suspension came just before the Matadore baseball team began the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs in late May. Many of the players dedicated their playoff performance to Brooks, and the team reached the semifinal round in an emotional run. Assistant coach Jimmy Zurn took over the head coaching duties during the playoffs.
Calls to the district office and to La Mirada principal Bill Seals were not immediately returned Tuesday.

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Area players among state’s Hot 100 in Class of 2015

Area players Gligorije Rakocevic, Balsa Dragovic and Kendall Laudersale have all been ranked among the top 100 seniors-to-be in California in the 2015 Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100.
Rakocevic and Dragovic are both 6-foot-9 post players from Cantwell-Sacred Heart. Each dealt with foot injuries at the beginning of the season but came on strong at the end, helping the Cardinals reach the CIF State Division 4 SoCal final. Rakocevic averaged 10.6 points and 8.6 rebounds and developed the ability to finish with either hand. Dragovic ended the season as a rebounding and shot-blocking force, and he can also step out and knock down a 3-pointer when called upon. Rakocevic is ranked No. 20 among the Class of 2015, Dragovic No. 44.
La Mirada’s Lauderdale, at 6-8 and 220 pounds, already possesses a Division I frame, but didn’t play to his size early in the season and had trouble finishing around the basket. After Christmas, however, he blossomed, topping 20 points 10 times. He finished the season averaging 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds. He is ranked 60th.
All three players were Whittier Daily News All-Area first-team selections as juniors.

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Former Cal State Dominguez Hills BB coach Damaine Powell hired at St. Paul

Former Cal State Dominguez Hills men’s basketball coach Damaine Powell has been hired as St. Paul High’s new boys basketball coach, athletic director Casey Morales confirmed Tuesday.
“To find someone with the experience and credentials he has is tremendous,” said Morales. “To have a guy like that … is something we’re really thrilled with.”
Powell coached CSUDH for nine seasons after leading Compton College to a pair of state community college championships. He also played and coached at USC.
He replaces Shawn Clingan, who stepped down following the 2013-14 season. The Swordsmen struggled to a 3-23 record last season, including a 1-9 mark in the Camino Real League. Next season, St. Paul will play in the Santa Fe League.
According to Morales, Powell has also accepted a full-time teaching position on the Santa Fe Springs campus.

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One more meeting between St. Paul, La Serna coaches

The softball coaches from St. Paul and La Serna will face off for the fifth time since March when the Red and Blue teams meet Wednesday at York Field for the Rotary Club of Whittier’s All-Star Softball Classic.
St. Paul’s Jim Maier and his staff will coach the Red all-stars while Mike Reed and Mike Orona of La Serna will lead the Blue team in the 11th installment of the postseason, senior-only contest. The Swordsmen and Lancers met four times during the just-completed season, and split those meetings, although St. Paul scored the biggest victory by defeating La Serna 2-1 in the CIF-SS Division 3 final.
The Red all-stars will feature Del Rey League MVP Lovie Lopez and Pitcher of the Year Koreen Orozco from St. Paul, Del Rio League MVP Trisha Trujillo of Cal and Montebello’s Evelyn Hernandez, the Almont League Pitcher of the Year. The Blue side will have Almont League MVP Byanka Diosdado of Schurr and Del Rio League first teamers Molly Bourne, Dana De La Torre and Dani Garcielita from La Serna.
First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.
The 18th edition of the baseball all-star game will follow at 6 p.m. La Serna’s Tony Gonzales will coach the Red all-stars, with Suburban League MVP Jeff Murray from La Mirada leading the way. Del Rio League Defensive Player of the Year Tony Ceron of La Serna is also part of the Red lineup.
The Blue all-stars will be coached by Pioneer’s Bobby Ramirez. Del Rio League Player of the Year Ruben Pinedo and DRL Offensive POY Fermin Beza, both from Cal, will play as well as Del Rio League first teamers Jerald Johnston (Cal), Jesse Perdomo (Cal), Robert Barraza (Cal), Esteban Solis (El Rancho), Justin Gonzalez (El Rancho), Ryan Palomar (El Rancho) and Josh Prickett (Pioneer).
Here’s the complete lineup for each team:
Baseball
Red All-Stars
La Mirada

Jeff Murray
Eric Tapper
Blake Wilson

La Serna
Mark Abbate
Paul Barraza
Gavin Callender
Tony Ceron
D’Andre Sanchez

Santa Fe
Victor Arreola
Harley Messenger
Tony Olivarez
Martin Serna

St. Paul
Nicholas Delgado
Jon Hernandez
Kevin Lugo
Aaron Pinto
Brian Stark

Whittier Christian
Mike Rafter
Jake Rivera

Whittier
Johnny Salgado
Moe Vasquez

Coach: Tony Gonzales, La Serna

Blue All-Stars
Cal

Robert Barraza
Fermin Beza
Robby Blount
Jerald Johnston
Jesse Perdomo
Ruben Pinedo

El Rancho
Justin Gonzalez
Ryan Palomar
Esteban Solis

La Habra
Andrew Gallegos
Robert Lefler
Chris Nuanes
Austin Saad

Montebello
Ryan Orozco

Pioneer
Carlos Hernandez
Josh Prickett
Adrian Ramos
Nathan Yorba

Sonora
Gavin Blodgett
Henry Bustamante
Jose Gomez
Maricio Guadarrama
Andrew Piraino

Coach: Bobby Ramirez, Pioneer

Softball
Red All-Stars
Cal

Carley Espinoza
Joslyn Macias
Miranda Perez
Brigid Ruiz
Rachel Shumaker
Trisha Trujillo

Montebello
Evelyn Hernandez
Alyssa Soneff

St. Paul
Taylor Ancona
Bryanna Campos
Krystal Gutierrez
Lovie Lopez
Koreen Orozco

Santa Fe
Amanda Flores

Sonora
Katie Amaral
Leandra Jew
Brandi Landino

Coach: Jim Maier, St. Paul

Blue All-Stars
El Rancho

Miranda Armas
Aiyana Leal-Robles
Anissa Sanchez

La Habra
Camille Manzo
Hope Moreno
Taylor Pierce

La Serna
Molly Bourne
Dana De La Torre
Dani Garcielita

Schurr
Byanka Diosdado
Stephanie Guido
Melissa Lopez

Whittier Christian
Celeste Adriano
Melissa Martene
Katelyn Wagner

Whittier
Vanessa Perez

Co-coaches: Mike Reed, Mike Orona, La Serna

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And my prediction was … very, very wrong

St. Paul senior Koreen Orozco

St. Paul senior Koreen Orozco

Boy, did I get THAT wrong!
My prediction of a 6-4 La Serna victory over St. Paul in the CIF-SS Division 3 softball final wasn’t even remotely close. I went 3 for 3, missing the score, the run total and the winning team.
I gave the Lancers the edge when it came to pitching, but St. Paul’s Koreen Orozco was clearly the best player on the field Friday. She held La Serna to two hits – one in the first inning, one in the seventh – and induced 17 ground ball outs, which was supposed to be the strength of La Serna’s Jamie Wren.
The advantage clearly went to the Swordsmen.
On defense, only one error was committed in the game – by St. Paul – and it led to La Serna’s only run of the game. But a pair of La Serna miscues that weren’t officially errors led to both St. Paul runs as well. An outfield misread led to Krystal Gutierrez’s RBI double in the first inning, and Myranda Bueno singled off Wren’s glove in the fourth when the pitcher dove for a pop fly that would have spun into foul ground had she left it alone. That let Bryanna Campos get to third base with no outs, and she scored one batter later on a sacrifice fly by Niko Walker.
Again, advantage to St. Paul.
The Swordsmen also did a better job running the bases Friday, but only because La Serna had so few chances. The Lancers had just six runners reach base, and only two got past second base.
Offensively, the edge clearly went to St. Paul. The Swordsmen totaled nine hits – at least one each time they came to the plate – and pounded three doubles off Wren.
As far as intangibles go, St. Paul played with more passion, perhaps because it hadn’t claimed a CIF softball title since 1988, about 10 years before most of its players were even born. They were determined to even the season series with La Serna at two victories apiece, including the most important one.

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And the edge goes to …

Today’s CIF-SS Division 3 softball final pits a pair of Whittier-area teams – La Serna and St. Paul – against one another at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine. It will be the fourth meeting of the season between them, with La Serna holding a slight 2-1 advantage before the 4:45 p.m. contest. La Serna left-hander Jamie Wren has allowed just one run during the playoffs while St. Paul’s Krystal Gutierrez blasted a pair of home runs in the Swordsmen’s semifinal victory over Palos Verdes. Like two of the first three meetings, it should be a terrific game.
Here’s a look at my Tale of the Tape and my prediction:
Pitching: La Serna’s Wren is 24-2 this season with a 0.47 ERA, and hadn’t allowed a run in the playoffs until the seventh inning of Tuesday’s semifinal against Righetti. Like St. Paul senior Koreen Orozco, Wren relies on location and movement instead of pure velocity, and she’s a master at inducing ground balls.
Advantage: La Serna

Offense: St. Paul has scored 41 runs in the playoffs, including 10 or more three times, and it closed the regular season with 10 or more runs in its last four games. The Swordsmen averaged 8.33 runs during Del Rey League play. La Serna was no slouch in the Del Rio League, averaging 7.2 runs per game, but 10 of its games were decided by three runs or less.
Advantage: St. Paul

Defense: The left side of La Serna’s infield is as strong as any in the Southern Section, with junior Taylor Becerra at shortstop and senior Molly Bourne at third, and they combined for two errors in 33 chances in the playoffs. In the outfield, senior Dani Garcielita positions herself and her teammates in left and right correctly with a coach’s precision. St. Paul’s best defender is senior center fielder Lovie Lopez, whose speed and reaction off the bat is remarkable.
Advantage: La Serna

Base running: Both teams are aggressive on the bases without taking unnecessary chances, and both have terrific leadoff hitters – Becerra and Lopez. St. Paul’s superior power means it can play more of a station-to-station game, while La Serna plays a little more small ball.
Advantage: Draw

Intangibles: La Serna holds the advantage in the season series, and has made deeper playoff runs in recent years. The teams have only one common opponent this season – Bishop Amat – and both went unbeaten against the Lancers (La Serna 2-0, St. Paul 3-0). La Serna is on a seven-game winning streak, but the Swordsmen’s streak is at 14. La Serna is in its first CIF final since 2008; St. Paul hasn’t played in a CIF final since 1997.
Advantage: Draw

Final score: La Serna 6, St. Paul 4

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Heralds join the quarterfinal party

With its victory Wednesday over visiting Lompoc Cabrillo, Whittier Christian’s baseball team joined La Mirada, Cal and Cantwell-Sacred Heart in the quarterfinal round of the CIF-SS playoffs.
The Heralds scored four times in the bottom of the first inning and held on for a 4-3 victory, improving their record to 17-12. They’ll host Big Bear (23-2) in the Division 5 quarterfinals Friday.
Here’s a look at Friday’s softball and baseball schedule:
Softball
Finals
At Deanna Manning Stadium, Irvine
Division 6

Cantwell-Sacred Heart (21-7) vs. St. Bonaventure (23-4), 2 p.m.
Division 3
La Serna (28-3) vs. St. Paul (27-4-1), 4:45 p.m.

Baseball
Quarterfinals
Division 2

Chino Hills (23-5) at La Mirada (22-10), 3:15 p.m.
Division 4
Cal (22-5) at Northview (18-11), 3:15 p.m.
Division 5
Cantwell-Sacred Heart (20-11) at Oak Hills (25-3), 11 a.m.
Big Bear (23-2) at Whittier Christian (17-12), 3:15 p.m.

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Late rallies lead area baseball teams to playoff victories

The baseball teams from La Mirada, Cal and Cantwell-Sacred Heart advanced to Friday’s CIF-SS quarterfinal round with victories Tuesday.
La Mirada rallied in the seventh inning for a 4-2 victory over Glendora in Division 2, improving its record to 22-10. The Matadores will host Chino Hills on Friday.
Cal also needed a late rally to defeat Don Lugo 7-6 in eight innings in Division 4. The Condors trailed 5-2 going to the seventh, but came back to improve their record to 22-5. They’ll play Northview, which knocked off top-seeded Kaiser, in the quarterfinals Friday, with the site to be determined by a coin flip Wednesday morning.
In Division 5, Cantwell needed 10 innings to beat Paraclete at home 5-4. The Cardinals (20-11) will play Oak Hills in Friday’s quarterfinals, with a coin flip to determine the host. The Division 5 game between Whittier Christian and Lompoc Cabrillo originally scheduled for Tuesday will instead be played Wednesday at Whittier Christian. The winner will face Big Bear on Friday.

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