For the Bishop Diego and Dos Pueblos High School football teams, the return to action Friday night was a dream come true.
The two teams battled admirably in tight games, with the Cardinals notching a 13-7 victory over St. Bonaventure and the Chargers falling to Fillmore 14-13.
“When you think about the fact that these guys have really only had two weeks where they’ve been lined up against somebody else, first game, sloppy things are exacerbated,” said Bishop Diego coach Tom Crawford of the difficulty of preparing for this abbreviated spring season. “We need to clean those things up.”
The Bishop Diego defense stood tall in its return to action, highlighted by a game-changing interception return for a touchdown by Buddy Melgoza that ushered the team to victory.
As for Santa Barbara, San Marcos, and Carpinteria high schools, COVID-19 has delayed the start of their seasons. The annual rivalry game between the Dons and the Royals was canceled due to a positive test. Carpinteria was also forced to cancel its game against Fillmore.
Dos Pueblos Water Polo was also put on pause and has only been able to play one game of its shortened spring season. ―Victor Bryant
In his last, beautiful game as a UCSB basketball player, JaQuori McLaughlin had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 7.5 assists. The half-assist came in the frantic final seconds. Sandwiched by two Creighton defenders, McLaughlin threaded a pass to Amadou Sow, who made what looked like the game-winning layup until it wasn’t, the ball spinning tantalizingly around the rim and then falling into the hands of Creighton, assuring the favored Bluejays a 63-62 victory over the Gauchos.
It was one of the thrillers that happened Saturday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at Indianapolis. March Madness, indeed. Returning to the spotlight after a dreary year’s absence, the first weekend reminded us why it may be the most exciting sports show on earth. As a No. 12 seed, UCSB was the possible purveyor of an upset over No. 5 Creighton, and the Gauchos came oh-so-close to pulling it off. Other longshots obliterated millions of bracket predictions.
While some games devolved into a wild mishmash of turnovers (hello, Texas; goodbye, Texas), the UCSB-Creighton match was very well played. The Bluejays swarmed around McLaughlin, the Gauchos’ leading scorer who earlier in the week received All-America honorable mention from the Associated Press. The senior guard displayed exquisite control, never forcing a shot when there was an open teammate to connect with. The one time he turned the ball over on an errant pass, McLaughlin singularly defended a two-on-one break and blocked Creighton’s shot.
UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said the disappointing outcome “can’t define our season.” The Gauchos went 22-5 and reached the NCAAs for the first time in 10 years as Big West champions. Against the Big East’s Creighton, boasting a pedigree of regular March Madness appearances, they showed they belonged.
Likewise, Sow should not be defined by a fluky shot. Don’t forget that the junior forward scored the Gauchos’ last four points, giving them a 62-61 lead with a pair of clutch free throws.
Senior guard Devearl Ramsey declared they won and lost as a team. “We had a tight, close group,” he said. “That’s why we had no COVID positives. We made sure no one did anything risky.”
More difficult than losing a game was the fate of Virginia Commonwealth, which incurred late COVID infections and had to forfeit its NCAA opener against Oregon.
Because of the pandemic, the Gauchos played the entire season in empty gyms until last Saturday, when limited attendance was allowed. UCSB had an allotment of 250 tickets that quickly sold out. Ramsey said it was gratifying to see Santa Barbara fans in Lucas Oil Stadium.
WOMEN’S MADNESS: The NCAA vowed to do better after an Oregon player rightfully exposed its inferior treatment of women’s teams. Nobody can seriously downgrade their brand of basketball. One of the most fun games of the postseason was a Big West shootout between UC Irvine and UCSB. The Gaucho women made 18 three-point baskets, but Irvine came out on top, 92-90. In the NAIA women’s tournament, Westmont College shattered all single-game records by burying 21 threes. Led by guards Stefanie Berberabe, Lauren Tsuneishi, and Iyree Jarrett, the Warriors hoped to bring a second national title back to Montecito.
COACHING MADNESS: Eastern Washington, coached by Dos Pueblos High grad Shantay Legans, took a 10-point lead over Kansas in the second half before the Jayhawks prevailed, 93-84. The postgame handshake between Kansas coach Bill Self and Legans was described as “a legendary coach meeting an up-and-coming coach.”… Indiana fired coach Archie Miller, who failed to get the Hoosiers into the NCAA tournament for the past four years. Among the names thrown out as possible successors was Pasternack, who attended Indiana and was a student manager for Bob Knight. But after it did not work out for Miller, who took several Dayton teams to the NCAAs, Indiana is expected to shoot higher. The money at that level is insane. The Hoosiers raised $10.3 million to buy out Miller’s contract. ―John Zant