The curtain came down on the winter sports season last Saturday. It was a blockbuster show in Santa Barbara, highlighted by CIF Southern Section championships in every team sport.
Girls’ water polo: San Marcos High won the Division 1 title, and Dos Pueblos was runner-up.
Soccer: Santa Barbara High won the Division 1 boys’ title, and Carpinteria took the Division 6 crown.
Basketball: San Marcos won the boys’ 2A championship.
Those are tremendous accomplishments, putting our teams among the best, if not the very best (Division 1), among more than 500 schools in the Southern Section, the largest and most competitive of the State CIF’s 10 sections. It takes a lot out of a team to get to that peak. But in each case, there was another mountain to climb, a playoff to determine a State Regional champion — often resulting in rematches with rivals from their own section.
That brought about bittersweet endings for everybody but Carpinteria High, the only team to finish with a victory. The Warriors, inspired by a crowd of 1,000 who turned out in the rain last Saturday, scored a 4-2 victory in the State Regional Division 5 soccer final against visiting Rubidoux, the same team they defeated in overtime to win the section title. Carpinteria finished 15-3-5 and went undefeated in its last 13 games.
Showing extraordinary ball control on a wet field, the Warriors took a 1-0 lead on Solomon Noohakaika’s left-footed laser shortly before halftime. Vincent Gonzalez made it 2-0 on a header off Luis Garcia’s corner kick. But Rubidoux tied the score on a pair of free kicks, the latter with 10 minutes of regulation time remaining. The tie lasted only a minute, as the hard-charging Garcia pushed the ball upfield and centered it for Jose Jimenez, who lashed it into the far corner of the goal. Gabe Barajas scored on another feed from Garcia to give Carpinteria its final two-goal advantage.
As if they weren’t already soaked by the steady rain, the triumphant Warriors emptied their water bottles on each other and their coaches. Pure joy.
For the Santa Barbara Dons, playing in the Division 1 regionals was like asking the Philadelphia Eagles to go out and play the New England Patriots again a week after the Super Bowl. “We’re playing for a title we already won,” coach Todd Heil remarked after the regional came down to the same four semifinalists — Santa Barbara, Cathedral, Loyola, and San Clemente — as in the section playoffs. The Dons had prevailed over Loyola and Cathedral in two exhausting overtime matches, the latter coming down to a penalty kick shootout, and they also went overtime to defeat Sunnyside of Fresno in the regional opener.
It was San Clemente, which took a week off after losing in the section playoffs, that the Dons met in the regional semifinal at the San Marcos stadium. The visiting Tritons won, 3-1.
“The boys gave it everything they had,” Heil said of the Dons, who went 19-2-3 and brought home the school’s seventh CIF soccer title. “We’re beat up … banged up … carrying guys off the field.” An injury kept their top midfielder, Owen Lambe, out of the regionals.
With national team player Tristan Weber setting up the first goal and blasting a penalty kick for the clincher, San Clemente was the first team to score more than twice against the Dons. “They were the deadliest team we’ve played,” Santa Barbara goalkeeper Ben Roach said. “They were fit, more than us for this match.”
Roach and the Dons recorded 18 shutouts. The last was a 1-0 victory over Sunnyside. It was Roach’s first match at Harder Stadium, where he will play for the UCSB Gauchos in the fall. As for the Dons, Roach said, “It was my favorite team. I’ve never played on a team where everybody likes each other so much.”
A 65-63 loss at Cajon in the second round of the Division 2 basketball regionals spelled an end to a sensational run by San Marcos’s fabulous five seniors. It was the Royals’ only loss of 2018 — ending a 17-game winning streak — and they finished with a 27-7 record and the school’s first CIF basketball championship. An unyielding rim on a game-ending three-point attempt prevented them from advancing in the regional.
UCSB needed a last-second three-pointer to stay alive in the men’s semifinals of the Big West Tournament, but after the tiring Gauchos had made just one basket in the final 10 minutes against UC Irvine, there was little hope that Marcus Jackson’s shot would fall. It didn’t, and the Anteaters won, 61-58. Like the regular season, the conference tournament was a wide-open affair. Fourth-seeded Cal State Fullerton knocked off Irvine in the final and goes on to the NCAA tournament. The Gauchos tied their school record with 23 wins, but coach Joe Pasternack said they would not be playing in any of the consolation tournaments that are out there. Sometimes, enough is enough.