Santa Barbara High was sent to the Gallows Division of the CIF Southern Section girls’ basketball play-offs. That’s one way to characterize the Dons’ promotion to the Open Division, where they were seeded 14th among the 16 highest rated teams in the section. In the first round, they were dismantled by the third-seeded Chaminade Eagles of West Hills, 81-45.
The CIF-SS established the Open Division last year to showcase the cream of the crop in Southern California prep basketball. But some teams are richer than others. Chaminade was like McConnell’s Ice Cream against frozen yogurt. The Eagles have two of the nation’s top college recruits — 6’2” Leonna Odom (Duke) and 6’ Valerie Higgins (USC) — and a strong supporting cast. Santa Barbara’s 5’10” Amber Melgoza is a very fine player bound for Washington. She scored 30 points Saturday, but sophomore Alondra Jimenez was the only other Don to make a field goal.
One of the perks of the Open Division is that the teams get to play at least one more game in a consolation round. Santa Barbara was matched against Mater Dei of Santa Ana in a Wednesday home game. More trouble: Mater Dei’s 6’4” center Allyson Rosenblum is another hoops sensation, successfully recruited by UCLA. The Dons did not see the likes of her while winning 25 games this season.
Another perk is that all Open Division selectees will receive berths in the State Regionals. If Santa Barbara winds up 0-for-2 in the Open Division, it may be demoted to the Division 2 state play-offs, a more realistic level for them.
That’s nice because the Dons girls have been a crowd-pleasing team since Melgoza led them to a CIF-SS Division 3AA championship and the State Division 3 final as a sophomore. That started their elevation to higher divisions. (The state play-offs comprise six divisions: Open and 1-5. The “As” and “AAs” further divide play-off teams in the Southern Section, the state’s largest section with more than 570 schools).
Several other area basketball teams, appropriately assigned to their divisions, advanced to this week’s Southern Section quarterfinals. Santa Barbara’s boys, rolling with a 28-1 record and a formidable senior trio of Bolden Brace, Nick Busch, and Ben Clay, are the top-seeded team in Division 2A. San Marcos (22-7) scored impressive wins in the first two rounds of the 3AA boys play-offs. The Dos Pueblos girls (17-6) headed into a 2A contest against top-seeded Rowland.
WATER POLO: The CIF Division 1 girls championships are down to the Final Four this week, and for the first time, San Marcos High is among them. The well-balanced Royals (25-3) joined three Orange County powers — semifinal opponent Orange Lutheran, Laguna Beach, and Foothill — at Irvine on Wednesday. The finals will be there Saturday.
LAST DANCE: “We won’t have anybody in the Big Dance,” UCSB swim coach Gregg Wilson said after the Gauchos competed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships. They recorded many personal best times, but not fast enough to merit selection to the NCAA Championships. It was a bit of a disappointment for Wilson at the end of his 40th and final season at the helm of the program.
Always scraping for funds, Wilson said, “We can’t buy national champions, but we’ve made champions,” among them Olympic gold medalists Richard Schroeder and Jason Lezak.
Just as much a success story to Wilson are swimmers such as senior Katie Records, who began her career as a walk-on. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier,” said Records, who was chosen UCSB’s outstanding female athlete by her peers last year. “I was not a standout swimmer when I came here.”
Records did have some “Big Dance” experience. She competed in Irish dancing as a teenager and made it to a pair of World Championships, 2009 in Philadelphia and 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland. “It’s two and a half minutes of very athletic jumping and springing,” she said. “I was an energetic kid. I’ll always have energy to burn.”
S.B. ATHLETIC ROUND TABLE ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Ryan Fidel, Dos Pueblos wrestling
Undefeated in dual meets, the 128-pounder was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Channel League Championships and qualified for the CIF Southern Section Masters.
Camila Casanueva, Dos Pueblos basketball
Her clutch shooting in the fourth quarter helped the Chargers defeat Buena for only the second time in history and spark their run into the CIF girls 2A play-offs.
Scott Everman, San Marcos basketball
In the first two rounds of the boys 3AA play-offs, the UC San Diego–bound senior scored 31 points against North Torrance and had 14 points and 11 rebounds against Gahr.
Hailey Gellert, San Marcos water polo
She scored three decisive goals as the Royals won a CIF quarterfinal game for the first time, 8-5 over Corona del Mar. She is headed for UCSB next fall.