It was Taylor Rochestie‘s finest hour on a basketball court. And it wasn’t just any court. It was UCLA‘s, where Washington State had previously won a single game and lost on 51 other occasions. Rochestie scored a career-high 33 points at Pauley Pavilion last Saturday, leading WSU to an 82-81 upset of the Bruins.
Rochestie’s hometown of Santa Barbara may have been more heavily represented at the game than Pullman, Washington. Prominently wearing a Santa Barbara High jersey among dozens of family and friends was Rochestie’s older brother, Alex.
They saw Taylor play all 40 minutes of the game. He was at his best in the final minutes, when UCLA desperately tried to overtake the Cougars. Rochestie scored 14 of WSU’s final 15 points. He swished three-point baskets from NBA range. He missed a short jumper, but he followed it up with a one-handed tip-in off the glass. He made clutch free throws, finishing the game 10-for-10 from the line.
The senior guard’s point total was the highest by a UCLA opponent at Pauley Pavilion in five years. He also had four assists. For his efforts, Rochestie was named Pac-10 Conference Player of the Week. The Cougars will return to Los Angeles next month for the Pac-10 Tournament. Winning it is their only hope to reach the NCAA tournament. But for Rochestie and his teammates, none of whom had ever beaten UCLA, last Saturday made their season.
Rochestie has played in every Cougar game since the start of his sophomore year. He spent his first year out of Santa Barbara High (class of 2004) at Tulane. The damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina and a knee injury prompted him to transfer to Washington State.
GAUCHO HOOPS: Tonight (Tue., Feb. 24), one of UCSB’s most popular basketball players will return to the Thunderdome. Stacy Clinesmith, a peppery point guard who led the Gauchos into four consecutive NCAA women’s tournaments, is the assistant director of operations with the Oregon State women’s team. The Beavers will take on the Gaucho women at 7 p.m. in a nonconference game. Admission is only $1.
Clinesmith came to Santa Barbara from Spokane, where she was Washington’s prep Player of the Year. She was a three-time All-Big West first team selection with the Gauchos. She is sixth in scoring and second in assists on UCSB’s all-time lists. After graduating in 2000, she played for three seasons in the WNBA with Sacramento and Detroit.
UCSB’s five current seniors - Sha’Rae Gibbons, Jenna Green, Lauren Pedersen, Kat Suderman, and Whitney Warren - have only two more home games to play. They will be feted before their Saturday afternoon game against Cal State Northridge. After a loss to Pacific last week - ending their nation-leading conference road winning streak at 19 - the Gauchos are tied for first in the Big West with UC Riverside, whom they will play on the road March 5.
The Gaucho men, meanwhile, are climbing in the standings with four consecutive victories. They have a big game Wednesday night at Northridge and then return home for their last three league contests. Senior forward Chris Devine received his second consecutive Big West Player of the Week award after scoring 26 points in their win over Pacific and 20 more in their overtime victory over Montana State.
PREP ACTION: Another Santa Barbara High basketball star will be following Rochestie into the Pacific Northwest. Roberto Nelson is bound for Oregon State on a scholarship. The 6‘4” guard played his last game at the Dons’ J.R. Richards Gym last week. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, and two steals in their 60-52 victory over Westlake in the CIF playoffs. The Dons lost to top-seeded Eisenhower on the road in the second round.
Westlake coach Tom Donahue followed Nelson throughout his career and spoke highly of his progress from a youth basketball superstar. “His shot is improved, and his attitude and demeanor have gotten a lot better,” Donahue said. “He used to be pouty and moody, a cool jacket - you’re too cool for the team - but he’s overcome that. I’m happy for him.”
Like Rochestie before him, Nelson was nominated for the McDonald’s All American High School Boys Basketball Team. He was not one of the 24 players selected for the elite all-star game. Two other nominated players from California were UCSB recruits Chris Brew (Oakland St. Mary’s) and Lucas Devenny (Santa Rosa Piner).
The only two local basketball teams still alive in the CIF playoffs will host their quarterfinal games - Laguna Blanca‘s boys versus Hesperia Christian today (Tue., Feb. 24) at 7:30 p.m., and Bishop Diego‘s girls versus Chadwick on Wednesday night.
In other CIF action, the second-ranked girls water polo team from Dos Pueblos takes on Newport Harbor in the semifinals Wednesday, 5 p.m., at Irvine’s Woollett Aquatics Center; and the Santa Barbara boys soccer team travels to Brea-Olinda for a second-round game.
Check out The Independent‘s sports calendar for a listing of the week’s top events.
RIP: Finally, it came as a shock to hear that former Santa Barbara resident and All-Pro football player Brad Van Pelt passed away at 57 last week from a heart attack. Almost 1,000 people attended his funeral in the gym at Owosso (Michigan) High, where he was a legendary athlete. Van Pelt was a rare three-sport standout at Michigan State and later was a feared linebacker with the New York Giants. When he lived in Santa Barbara, Van Pelt revived memories of his Michigan State days by opening Duffy’s Gridiron Grill, a sports bar and restaurant in honor of his late coach, Duffy Daugherty.