For high school teams, it’s February Madness — playoff hysteria mounts in not only basketball but also soccer and girls water polo.
“You really have to leave your heart on the floor,” said Ivette Gil, junior guard on the Santa Barbara Dons girls basketball team. “It’s tough to lose when you know there are no more chances.”
Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos tied for third place in the Channel League, one of the strongest leagues in the state, and both qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs. The Dons travel to Rio Mesa tonight (Thu., Feb. 16) in the opening round of Division 3AAA, and DP’s Chargers have a home game Saturday night against Santa Maria Righetti in Division 2A. (Division assignments are based on enrollment and past performances.)
The Dons and Chargers traded shots last week, Santa Barbara winning 56-47 behind 22 points by Gil; then, in a rematch to determine playoff seeding, the Chargers whipped the Dons, 64-42, as Kristen Gowdy poured in 22 points. “The girls regrouped, and we imposed our will on them,” DP coach Jelani Hicks said.
“Crosstown games are crazy,” Santa Barbara’s Andrew Butcher said. “We messed up, and they took advantage.” In his 30th year as coach of the Dons, Butcher is waiting for the perfect game. “If both teams do everything right with their spacing and ball movement, it’s 100 to 99,” he said.
The Dons do not have a player with the size and skill of Tess Emerson, last year’s standout forward. “We’re a fast and quick team,” said Gil, a three-year starter, who thrives on midrange jump shots. Dos Pueblos presents a stronger inside game. The Chargers are proceeding without senior guard Jessica Escalante, whose prep career sadly ended because of a torn ACL last month.
The boys basketball season featured three spirited, bleacher-filling games between Santa Barbara and San Marcos. The Dons scored a pair of wins, by two points each, and the Royals won the finale, 48-40, in the game where the San Marcos flash mob made itself a YouTube sensation. Both the Dons and Royals began their CIF playoff journeys Wednesday.
Santa Barbara and San Marcos start the boys Division 1 soccer playoffs on the road, while defending Division 7 champion Cate will be home Thursday. As expected, the Rams’ standout midfielder Ema Boateng signed a national letter-of-intent to play at UCSB in the fall. Dos Pueblos has a home match Friday in CIF girls soccer.
WAYNE’S WORLD: Wayne Bryan’s passion for tennis has taken him all over the country as an instructor and promoter, and to international Grand Slam tournaments as the father and coach of the twin doubles champions, Bob and Mike Bryan. That passion was stoked at UCSB, where Wayne (Class of ’69) was the No. 1 player on a team that upset Cal. On Saturday evening, February 18, Bryan will receive the Distinguished Gaucho Award in a ceremony that will give his friends a chance to roast him. Among those organizing the event, to be held at UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion beginning at 6 p.m., are Bryan’s former teammates Dave Grokenberger, Jerry Hatchett, and Ted Campbell — a trio of Santa Barbara tennis lifers. Former pro Marty Riessen, an area resident, also will participate in the fundraiser for Gaucho tennis teams and the Tennis Patrons. “It’s a grand group of people and a wonderful cause,” Bryan said. Providing entertainment will be Wayne Bryan’s band — music is his other passion — powered by Counting Crows drummer Jim Bogios. For more info, call (805) 893-5372.
FINAL NOTE: Rath Shelton was another man who lived in a harmony of sports and music. He was a familiar face in the crowd at Santa Barbara basketball and baseball games during the past several decades. He had been a ballplayer himself, and his interest in sports, shared by his four sons, helped him deal with his grief after his dear wife, Peg Shelton, died. During the 30 years he worked at Westmont College, his alma mater, Rath spread the news of Warrior athletic achievements. He also was a devoted musician, having played trumpet in the Army Jazz Band during World War II. Some years ago, I happened to be in his living room when he was asked to play “Body and Soul,” and every note Rath hit was pure and beautiful. Rath died on February 1, at 88 years old, and there will be a memorial celebration of his life on Sunday, February 19, at 2 p.m., near his homestead at 801 Cold Spring Road.
BUSY DAY: Westmont is enjoying one of its finest basketball seasons, with both the women’s and men’s teams ranked in the NAIA top 10. The Warriors host Concordia of Irvine on Saturday, February 18, beginning with the women’s game at 5:30 p.m. At UCSB on Saturday, the Gaucho baseball team continues a four-game series against Oregon State with a double-header (first game at 11am), and Marty Davis’s men’s tennis squad warms up for the Bryan fete by taking on SMU at 1 p.m.
For more sports, including a weekly highlight schedule, see independent.com/sports.