In the brightness of Santa Barbara High’s J.R. Richards Gym — a recent sprucing-up has had a comet-like effect on the previously dim confines — visions of an exciting 2014 prep basketball season materialized last Saturday night.
The Carpinteria Warriors managed to create some chaos in their Holiday Classic tournament matchup against Santa Barbara, and the Dons responded with flashes of brilliance during their 10th victory in 11 games, 73-52. “We like to play up-tempo,” Santa Barbara coach David Bregante said. “We can score in bunches. We can score a lot of points fast.”
That was the case in the first quarter, when the Dons raced out to a 28-11 lead.
Carpinteria sprint champion Bryson Frazer may have been the fastest player on the floor, but Santa Barbara had five guys who could really move, including 6’5” senior Jack Baker. “We can run with any team,” Baker said. “When we run, a lot of guys get open for easy shots.”
Isaiah Tapia, a clever senior guard known as “Rat,” was the open guy much of the time. He scored 24 points on a flurry of three-pointers and some acrobatic layups. He missed badly just once, coming up short on an attempt in the final seconds of the half. Baker grabbed the air ball and stuffed it through the hoop, à la Lorenzo Charles (N.C. State vs. Houston, 1983 NCAA Final). “My dunk wasn’t quite as big,” Baker said.
Bolden Brace, a 6’4” sophomore who was branded a Don the day he was born, contributed 16 points. His name was inspired by Torlando Bolden, a former star running back for the Dons and teammate of his father, Billy Brace.
Frazer scored 13 points for Carpinteria, which trailed by only 10 points (45-35) in the third quarter before Brace hit back-to-back threes, and the Dons assumed a 58-38 lead.
“I liked our effort,” said Jackson Damron, a Carpinteria assistant who filled in for head coach Johnny Ward, out of town at a wedding. “Santa Barbara is the toughest team we’ll face. They have athleticism, skill, and size. We battled them. That last scrum, the ball was loose three or four times; they had it, we had it, they had it, we came up with it.”
Meanwhile, in a Santa Maria tournament, San Marcos was winning for the seventh consecutive game on Saturday. The Royals took an 11-2 record into this week. They will host Santa Barbara on January 15 in what will surely be the first of three high-pitched Channel League contests.
COMEBACK KIDS: Coach Carlene Mitchell is not happy to see her UCSB women’s basketball team fall into deep deficits on the scoreboard, but she has to give the Gauchos props for never giving up. Twice in the past month, they scored big comeback victories — 77-69 at Pepperdine after trailing by 14 points, and, last Saturday, from a 19-point hole against visiting Seattle University to a 78-75 win.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: The last time the Gaucho men played in the Thunderdome, they scored a rousing victory over Cal on December 6. They return to the home floor Saturday, January 4, against The Master’s College, a warm-up for their Big West opener a week later against Cal Poly.
THE AMERICA’S CUP CAPER: Speaking of comebacks, I had to dine in the crow’s nest after the improbable outcome of the America’s Cup in September. New Zealand’s entry had sailed out to an 8-1 lead, needing just one more point to vanquish Oracle, the U.S. entry in the extravagant circus on the San Francisco Bay. I was watching a football game at a one-TV watering hole when some local sailing buffs lobbied for the boat show. I resisted — justly, because the race that day had been cancelled and the tape of an earlier race was substituted — and I also declared smugly that there was no suspense on the water, that the Kiwis were going to clinch the series in a day or two. Of course, Oracle produced one of the great winning rallies in sports history, which also fortuitously saved the America’s Cup from fading into irrelevance.
LEGENDS OF THE FALL: Winning the ultimate championships in their sports during the 2013 fall season were the SBCC women’s golf team, with its third state title in the last eight years, and the Carpinteria girls tennis team, CIF Division 5 winners for the second consecutive year. Fanny Johansson, a freshman from Sweden, led the Vaquero golfers. Kelsie Bryant, a junior, dominated the tennis courts for the Warriors.
TO THE VAQS GO THE SPOILS: With a 7-3 record in the fall, SBCC’s football team had its best season in 22 years. Two of the Vaqueros accepted scholarships at four-year universities. Jarred Evans, a quarterback from Queens, N.Y., is enrolling at Cincinnati after accounting for 34 SBCC touchdowns — 25 passing and nine rushing — over the past two seasons. Morgan Nevin, an All-State linebacker from Truckee who led the state in tackles, including 28 in one game, committed to Sacramento State.
JOME SWEET JOME: UCSB winger Ismaila Jome has been recognized as one of the nation’s top young soccer players. The Minnesota native was named to the College Soccer News All-Freshman Team and the Top Drawer Soccer Freshman Best XI. Jome displayed remarkable ball control in compiling seven assists and two goals for the Gauchos.
TERRIFIC TRIO: Santa Barbara could be home to almost half the starters on the 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s water polo team. Kami Craig (Santa Barbara High) already has a gold medal from the 2012 London Games. When the U.S. women wrapped up last month’s international Holiday Cup in Los Alamitos with a 13-5 victory over Greece, Craig was joined in the starting lineup by Kiley Neushul and goalkeeper Sami Hill, former standouts at Dos Pueblos High.
THREE DOZEN ROSES: I could smell the grass from my end-zone seat when I attended my first Rose Bowl game in 1962. UCLA faced Minnesota, which featured a dynamic African-American quarterback, Sandy Stephens. After he led the Gophers to a 21-3 victory, fans rushed unimpeded onto the field and pulled down the wooden goalposts. One of them brandished an ax and chopped up souvenirs. I repeat: Somebody brought an ax into the stadium. It was probably in his carry-on bag from Minneapolis. Later, I had the professional privilege of covering Rose Bowl games high up in the press box, affording a panoramic view of the action on the field and a postcard picture of the San Gabriel Mountains bathed in the last rays of the setting sun. All told, I witnessed firsthand 36 of the New Year’s football classics. It’s called the Granddaddy, but inasmuch as this week’s Stanford-Michigan State tussle is the 100th Rose Bowl game, it’s become the Great-Great-Granddaddy of them all. In its entire history, there have been very few clunkers in the Pasadena saucer.