The 2018-19 high school basketball season is underway in Santa Barbara, and fierce competition is a certainty as league realignment has set the stage for fresh matchups and renewed rivalries.
As was the case in the fall sports, North County teams Santa Ynez, Lompoc, and Cabrillo will join the Channel League to compete with Santa Barbara, San Marcos, and Dos Pueblos. Bishop Diego and Providence are in the Tri-Valley League with St. Bonaventure, Foothill Tech, and Santa Clara. Carpinteria is in the Citrus Coast League with Fillmore, Hueneme, Malibu, Nordhoff, and Santa Paula. Cate and Laguna Blanca will compete in the Frontier League with Thacher, Villanova Prep, and Grace Brethren.
For the most part, the pecking order in these leagues has yet to be determined. For instance, how will Cabrillo, the seven-time defending champion of the now-extinct Los Padres League, match up against Channel League competition?
SAN MARCOS: The Royals are the defending Channel League and CIF-SS Division 2A champions and will now test their mettle in Division 1. Gone is an outstanding senior class led by 6′8″ center Jackson Stormo, who now plays collegiately at Pepperdine. In addition, Ryan Godges is playing for Hawai’i Pacific, Stefan Korfas is playing for Concordia, and David Frohling is playing for Point Loma Nazarene this year.
That outstanding senior class will be tough to replace, but Beau Allen, a 6′4″ athletic freak who was a key contributor in San Marcos’s playoff run, is a nice building block. Other returners include Andrew Frohling, Ben Blankenhorn, and Isaac Briner. Juniors Tommy Condon and Will Pace as well as sophomores John Connolly and Max Sheldon lack varsity experience but will be called upon to step up and fill key roles.
“We have a pretty new team that does not have a lot of varsity season experience, but [is] a good group of hardworking guys that are eager to learn and get better,” said San Marcos first-year head coach Jelani Hicks. “We’re looking forward to the new league and playing the northern teams.”
On the girls’ side, San Marcos will look to build on one of the most successful seasons in recent memory and include a berth into the CIF-SS Division 4AA playoffs. Gone is lightning-quick guard Milan McGary, but the return of four key players — Megan Cunnison, Ashley Day, Juliet Dodson, and Taylor Hantgin — give the Royals hope that last season was not an aberration
SANTA BARBARA: The Santa Barbara High boys’ basketball team took its lumps last season with several inexperienced players in key roles. This season, returners Bryce Warrecker, Jasper Johnson, Stephen Davis, Jackson Hamilton, Aiden Douglas, Davis Kim, and Jackson Gonzales are a year older and a year wiser.
“You never know until you go at it, but I think we have the potential to be pretty good,” said Santa Barbara coach Dave Bregante. “Kids get older, bigger, stronger, and I think that’s probably the case with us. The biggest thing is we have to learn how to win.”
The consistent success of the Santa Barbara High girls’ basketball team has been impressive in recent years. A Channel League co-championship and a berth into the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs last season was just par for the course.
The Dons must replace Cassandra Gordon, who is now at Georgetown after averaging 16.3 points per game last season. Gordon’s backcourt mate Alondra Jimenez is playing at Vanguard after earning co-Channel League MVP honors last season.
Athena Saragoza returns after a stellar freshman season in which she averaged 12.9 points per game. Other returnees include senior forward Maddie Miller and juniors Mireya Gil and Maya Banks, all of whom saw limited action last season.
“I think our team will start slowly but has the potential to be strong in January, especially at the defensive end,” said longtime Dons coach Andrew Butcher.
DOS PUEBLOS: The Chargers graduate 10 out of 11 players from last year’s varsity team. The lone returner is senior guard Jaron Rillie. Last season has to be considered a step back for Dos Pueblos, as the team went from unbeaten Channel League champions in the 2016-17 season to 1-7 in league play.
At 6′2″, Rillie is a highly efficient combo guard. He has the ability to score from all over the court. He has great vision and creates scoring opportunities for his teammates. Another key contributor will be Baylor Huyck, a 6′5″forward who lacks varsity experience but has rare athleticism for his size and can score inside as well as from the perimeter.
“Channel League will be tough again this year. Santa Barbara is definitely the team to beat,” said Dos Pueblos coach Joe Zamora. “They are deep, have size, athleticism, and scorers. San Marcos will be a tough matchup for everyone as they have so much size across the board. Add in some athleticism, and they are a contender as well.
“It will be different traveling north,” Zamora added, “but I know all three of the coaches up there, and they will have their teams ready to go come league.”
For the Dos Pueblos girls’ basketball team, head coach Phil Sherman will try to build on the four wins his team earned in what was an abbreviated season for all of these teams due to the Thomas Fire.
The Chargers lose Sierra Cavaletto and several other key contributors to graduation, but should return Sadie Subject, Ashley Gerken, Mikayla Butzke, Olivia Rourke, and Leah Gamberdelli.
BISHOP DIEGO: The Cardinals lost several key seniors, including standouts Dylan Streett and Will Goodwin. They finished in second place in the Tri-Valley League under head coach James Coronado with a 10-8 overall record.
Bishop Diego will likely rely heavily on varsity returners Jake Engel, Mark Vehslage, Josh Conroy, and Jake Koeper.
Last season was a rebuilding year for the Bishop Diego girls’ basketball team. Several underclassmen gained valuable experience, including Ashley Oxton, Ariana Morones, Cassidy Quintana, Taylor Pate, Britney Perez, Sydney Naour, Veronica Arreola, and Andrea Perez.
COLLEGE CUP UPDATE: Akron, which won the 2010 NCAA men’s soccer championship at UCSB, is one of 16 teams still in the running for this year’s title when the College Cup returns to Harder Stadium on December 7 and 9. The three other teams who participated eight years ago went out in the second round Sunday — No. 4–seeded Louisville losing to Michigan State, 2-1; No. 5 North Carolina falling to James Madison, 2-1; and Michigan ousted by No. 7 Notre Dame in an epic penalty-kick shootout. Deadlocked at 0-0 after 110 minutes of playing time, the two teams matched makes and misses for 12 rounds before the Fighting Irish prevailed, 11-10. After beating Syracuse, 3-1, Akron will face top-seeded Wake Forest in Sunday’s third round. No. 9 Stanford, the three-time defending champion, knocked out UC Irvine, 2-0, and will face No. 8 St. Mary’s, assuring that one — but only one — West Coast team will be in the quarterfinals. No. 3 Kentucky pounded Portland, 4-0. Other former champions still in the running are No. 2 Indiana (8 national titles) and No. 10 Virginia (7).