In a week’s time, high school teams will enter the survival phase of winter sports — the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section play-offs in basketball, soccer, and girls’ water polo. Their names will be stacked on the left side of the bracket sheets, and a diminishing number of blank lines will spread across each sheet in columns until, at the far right, one line remains, to be filled in by the name of the champion.
Santa Barbara High’s basketball teams have a chance of making it through all the rounds to that coveted final spot — the girls ranked No. 1 on the Division 3-AA poll and the boys No. 4 in Division 3A. There are 12 divisions in the basketball play-offs, each of them consisting of schools that are presumably competitive with one another.
Teams playing in the same league can be assigned to different divisions. Santa Barbara will finish behind Ventura in the Channel League girls’ basketball standings, but the Dons won’t have to face the Cougars in the play-offs because Ventura is highly ranked in Division 1A.
Despite their superior status, the Cougars were on their guard when they came to play in Santa Barbara’s J.R. Richards Gymnasium last week. Just five points had separated the teams in Ventura earlier in the season. “It’s been a stressful weekend,” Cougars coach Ann Larson said. “We have to play hard.” That they did, crushing the Dons on the backboards and taking away a 64-47 victory.
The most spectacular player on the floor was Santa Barbara sophomore Amber Melgoza, who poured in 29 points. She is listed as a power forward because, at 5’9”, she is the tallest starter on the team. Quickness and agility, rather than power, enable her to score in the paint, and she can also shoot from the perimeter like her favorite player, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry.
Melgoza was exhausted after battling Ventura at both ends of the floor. “They’re a lot bigger than we are,” she said. At one point, the Cougars had a 50-25 lead. The Dons, led by Melgoza and Jocelin Petatan, forced several turnovers and put together a 12-0 run, but they ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.
“We’re fortunate to have a long bench,” Larson said. Marki Meyer led the balanced Ventura scoring with 14 points. Meyer is a special player. The 5’11” senior has Type 1 diabetes, and she comes to games equipped with an insulin pump and a wireless monitor. “She is a very mature young woman,” Larson said.
Santa Barbara coach Andrew Butcher said the Dons let the game get away in a sloppily played first half. “We’ll start to correct our mistakes,” he said, “or we won’t, and it will be a short season.”
On the boys’ side, Santa Barbara has run away with the Channel League title. The Dons could finish 12-0 in the league, giving them a boost of momentum for the play-offs. Other basketball teams with high hopes entering the postseason are Bishop Diego’s boys and girls, both ranked in Division 5AA. In Division 1 boys’ soccer, Santa Barbara has clinched the league championship, and Dos Pueblos is holding second place. San Marcos, Santa Barbara, and Dos Pueblos all are ranked in the Division 1 girls’ water polo top 10.
COLLEGE BOUND: The first Wednesday of February has become a ceremonious day at many high schools. It’s the day some of their finest student-athletes — the student part is important in this case — can accept college scholarship offers by signing national letters of intent.
A pair of Dos Pueblos High senior girls will attend Pac-12 Conference schools. Stamatia Scarvelis, winner of two state titles and the national junior championship in the shot put, signed with UCLA, and state cross-country runner-up Addi Zerrenner is going to Arizona.
UCSB signed a pair of San Marcos athletes, Dasha Depew for women’s swimming and Shane Hauschild for men’s water polo. Hannah Harrah, the goalkeeper on the San Marcos girls’ soccer team, is going to Loyola Marymount, and boys midfielder Robbie Landeros to Seattle University.
Joe Salcedo, a 6’6”, 270-pound lineman who helped Bishop Diego’s football team go 33-6 in the last three seasons, is heading to San Diego State. Cardinals tight end and linebacker Nolan Tooley signed with UC Davis.
Santa Barbara High is sending two more girls to NCAA Division 1 water polo programs — Betsy Hendrix to UCSB and Anna Brummett to Indiana.
Two SBCC football players signed to play at four-year schools — cornerback Tavonte Jackson going to Idaho State and linebacker Jackson Weed to Glenville State, a Division 2 school in West Virginia. Vaquero soccer star Brandie Harris, a Dos Pueblos grad who set a school record with 30 goals last year, signed with Cal State San Bernardino along with teammate Heather Rivera. The SBCC men’s soccer team is sending a quartet of players, led by British standout Adam Colton, to Hawai’i-Hilo.
SOCCER HAUL: Look for lots of fresh faces when UCSB’s men’s soccer team takes to the pitch next fall. Coach Tim Vom Steeg announced the signings of 11 new players, including nine from U.S. Soccer Development Academy programs affiliated with Major League Soccer clubs. Four played for the L.A. Galaxy Academy — midfielders Adonis Amaya, Axel Mendez, and Ryo Fujii; and defender Jeff Quezada.
The Gauchos, who are losing top scorers Achille Campion and Goffin Boyoko to graduation, signed three forwards — Dalton Pando and Alex Liua of the San Jose Earthquakes Academy, and Denis Kalamar of the Seattle Sounders Academy. Vom Steeg is also high on the attacking ability of Ludwig Ahl, a midfielder from Stockholm, Sweden.
END OF A LONG, HARD RIDE: Barney Berglund, an activist in the Santa Barbara bicycling community and all-around good guy, lost a yearlong battle with cancer last week. He will be missed. Before the disease sapped his strength, Berglund was known as one of the strongest local men on two wheels. His love of the sport led him to volunteer as chair of the area organizing committee when the first Amgen Tour of California came through Santa Barbara in 2006. Berglund mustered support for the return of the ATOC last year, but after he was diagnosed with retroperitoneal sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, he brought in co-chairs to make sure the details would be taken care of. Berglund’s legacy will include another round of professional cycling on May 15, when Stage 5 of the 2014 Amgen Tour finishes in Santa Barbara.