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Christmas In Paradise.

Casper Ware and the 49ers spent the holiday winning in Hawaii. Page 11B Page 1B

December 29, 2011

Long Beach Sports Bursting With Highlights By Mike Guardabascio and JJ Fiddler Sports Editors

—Gazette photos by Kevin Oules, John Fajardo, Mike Guardabaschio

YEAR OF HIGHLIGHTS. Clockwise, from top. The Long Beach State men’s basketball team starts the season with lofty goals. Ashley Roese scores against San Diego in the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAAs. The Whaley PONY squad made it to the World Series again. Tough tackles like this one against Mission Viejo epitomized the Poly High football season. Poly’s girls topped the podium at the state track meet, and the boys joined them for double titles.

stances you wouldn’t wish on any team. The 49ers pulled through in the face of adversity after losing teammate Cameron Gillett in a car accident a week prior to running, throwing and jumping for the title. Openly competing in Gillett’s honor, the 49ers came away with their first Big West title since 2008 and third in the last six years. “For the guys to rebound the way they did says a lot about their resiliency and ability as a team,” said 49er head coach Andy Sythe, who brought the trophy to the annual Jewels of the Night fundraising auction that night. “We have some incredible athletes and they definitely shined today. They rose to the occasion and I (Continued on Page 2B)

Long Beach State Notebook

Page 7B

Athletes Of The Week

Page 14B

Moore League Roundup

Page 8B

By The Books

Page 14B

49ers’ Christmas In Hawaii

Page 11B

On The Water

Page 8B

All Moore League Standouts

Page 15B

Sports Calendar

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we b

INDEX

What a year it’s been for sports fans in Long Beach. We’ve never had a harder time narrowing down the most significant moments of a calendar year before—that’s why we cheated a little and selected the top 11 moments. After all, just look at what didn’t make the list: The sell-out Drew League/Goodman League basketball game, which saw NBA stars fill the Pyramid like they haven’t since the Summer Pro League left town; Long Beach natives claiming two out of the 22 starting spots on the NFL Pro Bowl’s offensive squads; four high school students winning international medals (though you’ll read more about that next month); there’s not even a single football game on the list. But that’s what happens when Long Beach teams win six CIF championships and three state titles. All three of those state titles came thanks to Long Beach Poly, whose sports year was so dominant that ESPN named them the top high school sports program in the country over the summer (joining Sports Illustrated, who deemed Poly the nation’s best a decade ago). What’s coming in 2012? Nobody knows yet, but it’s hard to imagine next year’s list being as memorable as this one. 11. Wilson and Lakewood Baseball Make CIF Semis At Blair Field Tuesday, May 31 was a special day at Long Beach’s Blair Field, as both Wilson and Lakewood played in the CIF Division 1 baseball semifinal doubleheader. Yes, both teams lost, but the fact is it was still a banner day for local sports, showcasing the depth of the Moore League as it produced two of the top four teams in the deepest playoff bracket in America. It was the first time in a decade that two teams from the same league were playing in the semifinals (it was Wilson and Lakewood the last time it happened too). And while neither team hoisted a plaque that year, the two teams went a combined 55-12-1 last year and will return their top pitchers for 2012. In other words, don’t rule out spending another late May afternoon and evening at Blair. 10. Long Beach State Men’s Track & Field Wins Big West The Long Beach State men claimed the 2011 Big West Track & Field Championship in May at Anteater Stadium under circum-

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Page 2B | GRUNION GAZETTE | December 29, 2011

Year In Review (Continued from Page 1B)

am awfully proud of them.” 9. Deon Reid Breaks His Own State Diving Record — Again Setting a state record as a high school student is an impressive feat. Which is why Poly junior Deon Reid decided to do it three times. His freshman year, Reid won the CIF state title in diving with a record score; his sophomore year, he won it again and broke his own record. Last spring

in Irvine, he not only won his third state championship, but he scored 404.00, easily beating secondplace Clay Pinckney’s 379.45 and establishing another new state record for points total. Reid showcases how diverse Long Beach’s athletic dominance was last year, owning the competition in a sport that draws very few casual spectators. Reid’s near-perfect form and prodigious understanding of his sport nabbed him a scholarship offer to Duke, where he will enroll in fall 2012.

A few months prior, he’ll have a chance to break his own record — again. 8. CIF Tradition Comes Back To Wilson Water Polo America’s most storied high school aquatics program reclaimed its rightful position atop the throne this year, as Wilson’s boys’ water polo team pulled off a championship upset to win the school’s 12th CIF water polo championship. The 7-6 win over top-seeded Corona del Mar was a defensive masterpiece that was

—Gazette photo by Jim Cayer

PLAY ON. Middle school sports was on the chopping block, but a community fund-raising drive kept it alive, as this action in the flag Football finals attests.

hotly contested down to the last possession, when Wilson’s defensive stopper Max Irving stole the ball from the Sea Kings to end the game. Goalie Nick Hoy had 15 saves in the game, which his coach called the best of his Wilson career. As head coach Tony Martinho and his assistants were pulled by the Bruins team into the pool to celebrate, reporters and CIF officials were already thinking about next year. The Bruins will graduate some key players, but they also return Moore League Player of the Year Jackson Kimbell and three other starters, on a team that quite likely will be the preseason favorites to win another CIF title. 7. The Long And Winding Road For LBSU Men’s Basketball With media attention settling on the 49ers in a way that Long Beach State simply hasn’t seen (for any sport) in the last decade, the whole year feels like a 49er moment. We could talk about so many different snapshots in time,

like a recent streak of wins, the historic upset of No. 9 Pitt that had the 49ers trending on Twitter and leading “SportsCenter,” the memorable summer for Player of the Year senior guard Casper Ware in the Drew League, or yet another murderer’s row of a preconference schedule. Yet the only actual championship that the team won last year (for all the national coverage, you’d think they won 10) came on an easily overlooked night in the Pyramid, where they cut down the nets after winning the 2011 Big West regular season championship with a 61-55 victory over Cal Poly. This senior group of 49ers has made it to the Big West Conference Tournament finals two years in a row and lost to UC Santa Barbara both times, so this is actually the only title guys like Ware, Larry Anderson, T.J. Robinson and Eugene Phelps have won in their record-setting LBSU careers. That’s obviously put a bitter taste (Continued on Page 3B)


December 29, 2011 | GRUNION GAZETTE | Page 3B

—Gazette photo by Jim Cayer

BIG FINISH. Poly dominated the Moore League track and field finals with performances like this.

Year In Review (Continued from Page 2B)

in mouths of players, coaches and fans alike. And it’s also the reason “FINISH” is the mantra for the 2011-2012 season. 6. St. Anthony Girls’ Basketball Wins Second Consecutive CIF Championship Led by sisters Kendall and Jourdan Cooper, the Saints knocked off Division 4A No. 1 seeded Oaks Christian, 53-44, in impressive fashion at the Anaheim Convention Center to raise the first place plaque yet again. Kendall, a highly touted recruit who was a sophomore at the time, finished with eight points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks while her sister Jourdan, who now plays at UC Riverside, added 11 points and 14 boards as the Saints had 23 offensive boards in the game, and won the rebounding battle 65-39. The storyline is deeper than two championships, however, because of the way the Saints start-

ed their 2010 title defense. After rattling off four wins at their own tournament, St. Anthony last four straight games at the Nike Tournament of Champions and fell to Serra at home, 57-34. They rebounded in impressive fashion to win a second straight championship, with Kendall Cooper named the CIF Division 4A Player of the Year as just a sophomore. 5. Mike Conway Wins 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach On May 30, 2010, Mike Conway’s life hung in the balance as the nation cringed at video of his horrific crash at the Indianapolis 500. The England native managed to skate through with just a broken leg and a compression fracture in his vertebrae, missing the rest of the season and putting his driving future in jeopardy. But after getting an opportunity from Andretti Autosport to make a comeback, and less than a year after his brush with death, Conway completed his remarkable return to the sport on the streets

of Long Beach by winning his first ever IZOD IndyCar race. After avoiding two crashes in front of him, Conway took the lead on the 71st lap and won the race going away, finishing six seconds in front of the chase pack. Taking the title at the best street course in America is more than enough to be on this list, but after the tragic death of Conway’s fellow driver and countrymen, Dan Wheldon, it makes Conway’s story and Long Beach victory so much more profound. No doubt,

the 2012 edition of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be full of Wheldon remembrances, and the defending local champion will likely lead them. 4. Long Beach Poly Dominates In CIF Basketball Win This game is so high on the list not just because the Jackrabbits added yet another championship plaque to their already bursting trophy case, but because of the way in which they did it. CIF Division 1 is some of the most competitive high school basketball

in the country. Rare is the NBA Draft that doesn’t feature at least one player who used to lace up his sneakers in CIF. Which is why it was so shocking to look up at the scoreboard with a little more than five minutes left in the championship game this year, and see that Poly was beating Corona Centennial 62-29. Poly shot 45% while holding the Huskies to 2/14 from three-point range, and the ‘Rabbits outrebounded their foe 43(Continued on Page 4B)


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Year In Review (Continued from Page 3B)

16, as Ryan Anderson’s 18-point, 21-rebound performance will go down as one of the more dominant title efforts in recent history. “We executed exactly what we wanted to do,” said Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer, a rare claim for a title tilt. “We executed the game plan to a T.” What made the night that much more special for Metoyer and his players was that they’d been working towards it for three years, as Metoyer started the senior core of the 2010-2011 team when they were sophomores. “A couple of years ago when they were sophomores,” Metoyer

said after the game, “They committed to being here tonight. To buying into the team, and what we’re about offensively, defensively. I mean, these are my guys, and I think when they play you can see a reflection of me in them, and I think you see them in me.” 3. Long Beach PONY Books Another Trip To World Series At this point, if the Long Beach PONY baseball team doesn’t have some sort of frequent flyer program, you’d have to call it fiscal mismanagement. Long Beach has been known as a hotbed for baseball talent for decades, and in recent years, you’d have to call Whaley Park’s PONY team the refinery that takes all that raw talent and helps process it into

—Gazette photo by Jim Cayer

LEADER OF THE PACK. Cross-country running long has been one of the more competitive middle school sports, and this year’s finals were no different.

something even more special. Last July, not only did the PONY team, led by manager Ken Jakemer, make their third PONY World Series in five years, but they made it all the way to the Final Four in the world. That they made a late run probably shouldn’t come as a surprise — they have a habit of doing

that. In 2007 when they went, on the 50th anniversary of the last Long Beach PONY team to win the World Series, they made it all the way to the championship game before losing. The next year they got their revenge and won the whole thing. This year, they knocked off two international opponents on their way to the Final

Four, helping to instill a unique kind of poise and grit in the local players that now make their way into the Moore League. This year. when you see Moore League players shaking off the pressure of the CIF playoffs, or a high-stakes league game, spare a moment to remember the handbuilt ballpark at Whaley Park. Thanks to its PONY program, local schools inherit players who have already gone against some of the best in the world, in a ballpark on the other side of the country, in front of big crowds. 2. Long Beach State Women’s Soccer Makes Elite Eight Don’t be afraid to call the 2011 Long Beach State women’s soccer team a Cinderella story. The sheer numbers of records posted by the 49ers this year are enough to get them on this list, but the run in the NCAA Tournament puts them near the top of our 2011 memories, as they were the most successful team in program history. After winning its second consecutive Big West Tournament title over highly touted UC Irvine and earning a third trip in four years to the NCAA Tournament, Long Beach State won its first game in the tournament over No. 7 Pepperdine and came within one win of making it to the Final Four. An 18-6-1 overall record is best in program history, and is the sixth 10-win campaign in the last seven years. Also, the 49ers shattered the school record for goals (49), assists (52) and points (150) while junior Nadia Link tied a school record with 16 goals and was named Big West Offensive Player of the Year as well as being selected by NCAA coaches for the NSCAA/Continental Tire NCAA Women’s Division I AllAmerica Team, the first 49er to make the list. Their late-game goal-winning win over the University of San Diego in the pouring rain in the Sweet Sixteen provided a lasting image of the 49er season. Of course it was an unheralded, rarely-used freshman, Ashley Roese, who stamped the image in our minds. 1. Poly’s Track Programs Ink Names Across State History Books There is history, and there is History. The Long Beach Poly girls’ and boys’ track teams showed us the difference once again last June, as they scrawled their names — in ink, not pencil — at the top of the CIF State track record books. (Continued on Page 5B)


December 29, 2011 | GRUNION GAZETTE | Page 5B

team awards also included the state-record fourth consecutive championship for the girls’ team. “They always believed,” said Poly boys’ coach Don Norford of the whole program. “The boys earned it the old fashioned way — they took it, with blood, sweat and tears. And the girls are so close (to each other), they refuse to lose. When you get that kind of energy, and it’s godly, you can’t

do nothing but win.” The girls’ title was virtually assured with how much top talent they had (Poly scored in eight of the 10 track events, winning three of them), but the boys won in the most dramatic way possible. Trailing for virtually the entire day, they needed a second-place or better finish in the day’s final race to beat Loyola. Instead, they won the race, and

the state championship, 35-32. “For our seniors to make history, not just in California but the nation, that’s special,” said Poly girls’ coach Crystal Irving. “That’s unheard of. We’ve been very blessed at Poly, and I can’t say enough about this year’s team.” Neither can we, and neither, for a long time to come, can the California state record books.

—Gazette photo by Kevin Oules

INSPIRATIONAL WIN. IndyCar driver Mike Conway came back from serious injury in 2010 to win the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Year In Review (Continued from Page 4B)

Only three times in the 100+ year history of California’s high school state track meet has one high school won two titles by claiming both the girls’ and the

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boys’ crowns. All three times, it’s been the Poly Jackrabbits, including a memorable night in 2011 that proved that in the state’s first organized high school sport, Poly is only competing against themselves. The incredible comefrom-behind sweep of the top

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December 29, 2011 | GRUNION GAZETTE | Page 7B

LONG BEACH STATE: NOTEBOOK By Tyler Hendrickson Staff Writer

The 49ers’ men’s basketball team have been on the cusp of its ultimate goal (reaching the NCAA Tournament) in each of the past two years, only to lose in tournament championship games. At the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu this past weekend, Long Beach State hoped to simulate that rapid-fire tournament schedule, but faced a similar outcome, picking up a pair of big wins in Hawaii before falling 77-60 to Kansas State. Even though the tournament title eluded them, the 49ers did get another resume-boosting win, handling No. 14 Xavier 68-58 in the opening game. Freshman guard Mike Caffey was a catalyst in the win as he continued his savvy play on the court en route to a team-high 14 points. Coach Dan Monson called it “without a question our best defensive performance of the year.” The ‘Niners fed off of the intensity and effort of Eugene Phelps, who had one of his best games of the season. The victory didn’t offer the same national praise that the win over Pittsburgh did earlier in the year, but it was another notch in the belt for the 49ers that will look very good on the schedule come March. The win put the 49ers into the second round against an SEC foe in the Auburn Tigers. It was an impressive showcase for The Beach, as they dismantled Auburn 64-43. It was their largest margin of victory against a D-I opponent by far this season, behind 16 points from Larry Anderson on 5-of-6 shooting. The 49er defense held strong again, only allowing Auburn to shoot 26% from the floor on the night. That set up a Christmas Day matchup with Kansas State for the Diamond Head Classic title, where Long Beach came out lethargic and fell behind early, on their way to a disappointing loss. The defense was far less effective, and K-State was able to take advantage all night. Rodney McGruder, who was named tournament MVP, poured in 28 points while going 10/11 from the field. But that was just the first of the ’Niners’ problems, as they also had plenty of trouble on the offensive end. The K-State defense flummoxed the 49ers all evening,

not allowing them into any type of offensive rhythm. Long Beach looked like a completely different team in the third game than they did in games one and two, which could be attributable to several different factors. It may have been due to an unfavorable matchup against a talented 10-1 Wildcat squad that the 49ers were unable to figure out. It also might have been a result of 49er fatigue, which has contributed to the Big West Tournament title losses in years past. As Long Beach stays with a seven-man rotation, it’s difficult to maintain a winning level of play, especially in a tournament format. By contrast, Kansas State uses a 10-man rotation, and had 12 players see the floor in their first two games. Playing their third game in four days, Long

Beach was outhustled by a deeper, and fresher, Wildcats squad. The 49ers (7-6) now go from the hunters to the hunted as the Big West Conference season gets underway, starting Jan. 2 when they visit UC Irvine (3-9) at 7 p.m. Women’s Basketball Following their first home loss of the season, the 49ers got some time off to reflect. When they return to the court tonight, Thursday, they’ll try to start a new home winning streak as Big West play opens up against UC Riverside (2-9). They then welcome UC Irvine (4-8) into the Pyramid on Saturday afternoon. As a team picked to finish last in the Big West coming into the season, Long Beach has a lot to prove this year. In these first two home games, it is imperative for

the 49ers to make a statement and place themselves among the contenders in their conference. Much of the responsibility for that task falls on the shoulders of Tipesa Moorer, the lone senior for the ’Niners and the team’s leading scorer at 11.9 points per game. Several new faces have helped to carry the load for Long Beach, as freshmen Alex Sanchez (9.5 PPG) and Lauren Spargo (7.3

PPG) have really impressed at times, making valuable contributions out on the floor. With key injuries to post players, the 49ers (5-8) have had to adjust how they play on both sides of the floor, and they hope to be resourceful and scrappy enough to get a pair of home conference wins this weekend. The Riverside game has a 7 p.m. tip, while the Irvine matchup is at 1 p.m.

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Page 8B | GRUNION GAZETTE | December 29, 2011

Since its opening in 1968, the Belmont Plaza Pool has held hundreds of championship swim meets, water-polo tournaments and even one sailboat race (huge fans were parked at one end of the pool, and the sailors raced in singlehanded boats). While designed for Olympic-class competition, progress has made it a less-than-optimum venue for that purpose. Nevertheless, the Plaza Pool continues to host events of this type. The aging facility has annually been shut down for maintenance in the late summer, typically reopening in the fall. This year, the closure extended until November. However, as reported in this newspaper, that work — which entailed replacement of some 40-year-old plumbing — led to the failure of plumbing in another part of the pool and its reclosure. It now appears that the Plaza Pool will reopen later this winter. March is the date reported most recently. Regardless of that actual date, this closure will disrupt regional swimming schedules in a major way. Among the events that definitely will be displaced is a major Southern California Swimming (SCS) senior meet and several collegiate swim championships. It looks like the Plaza Pool will reopen in time to host the year-

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end high school championships, and may be open in time for the annual Klaus Barth Invitational. But stay tuned to this column — and this newspaper — for updates on the progress of work on this beloved seaside icon. Boxing Day For years, Alamitos Bay Yacht Club hosted a Naples Sabot regatta on the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It was one of two regattas in which I sailed Naples Sabots (the other was ABYC’s Men’s Day) every year, and I did it for one reason alone — so that I could brag to my East Coast business colleagues that I’d been sailing. That event fell off the calendar some years ago, but it has been replaced by another: ABYC’s Boxing Day Pursuit Race. The brainchild of Mark Townsend, a Naples resident, former Commodore of ABYC and a transplanted Briton, it is named for the Dec. 26 holiday observed in Great Britain and throughout the Commonwealth. It is rather an unusual event in a couple of ways. For one thing, as the name suggests, it is a pursuit race. In this type of contest, the slowest boats start first and subsequent starts are staggered based on the relative speeds of the boats. Naples Sabots, for example, usually start first, with (Continued on Page 10B)


December 29, 2011 | GRUNION GAZETTE | Page 9B

MOORE LEAGUE: NOTEBOOK By Mike Guardabascio Sports Editor

On Moore League opening night, there were no holiday surprises for boys’ basketball teams. As expected Poly, Compton and Jordan (without question the best in the league right now) all won by 20+ points, against Cabrillo, Millikan and Wilson. But after the preliminaries were put aside, attention turned to last Friday’s showdown between Poly and Compton, the top two programs in the league the past few years. Poly fans were treated to their two best players showing up on the biggest stage, as Roschon Prince and Jordan Bell led the Jackrabbits to a 55-49 win and the inside track on the road to the Moore League title (they will play in Compton on Jan. 27). “Obviously when those two guys are leading on the court, we’re a tough team to beat,” said Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer of his juniors. “And what better time than tonight?” Prince scored 20 points, including 11 in a third quarter that Poly won by nine points, giving them an 11-point lead headed into the fourth quarter. Bell really stepped up defensively, adding 11 rebounds and 10 blocks to his 14-point offensive performance. Asked if he thought it was the best the two juniors have played as a tandem, Prince said simply, “Definitely yes.” What made the game so exciting, besides a packed Poly gym filled with former stars who were home from college for the holidays, was the fact that at least four of the 10 starters are future Division 1 athletes, creating a level of play you won’t find in many league games in California. Victor Robbins and Isaiah Bailey of Compton, the other top athletes on the floor, combined for 23 points. Compton will play in this week’s Torrey Pines Classic (which Poly won last year), while the Jackrabbits will be inactive until Jan. 13, giving them three full weeks of practice to improve before they play Lakewood. Girls’ Basketball Poly and Millikan are the two powers in the Moore League this year without question, as the only two local teams ranked in CIF Division 1’s Top 10. But the Wilson Bruins are trying to prove that

they’ll need to be taken seriously, especially with junior Michaela Reed playing at an elite level. Last week, she scored 42 points in a pair of Wilson wins, giving the Bruins a 2-0 start to league play. Against Jordan, a playoff team in 2010-2011, the Bruins opened the game on a 14-0 run and never looked back as they beat the Panthers, 72-16. Two days later, Wilson beat Lakewood 53-34. Poly had as busy a week as could be imagined, playing four games at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona before returning home to beat Compton on Friday, meaning they played five games in five days, across two states. Even against top national talent in Arizona, they were able to go 5-1 on the week, improving their record to 9-1 and earning a spot in National Top 10 polls. They beat top teams from Florida and Pennsylvania at the Nike TOC, before falling to La Jolla Country Day, the consensus top team in the country, with a roster featuring as many as seven Division 1 athletes. Millikan easily defeated Compton to start league 1-0, and will play this week and weekend in the Edison Tournament. Girls’ Soccer Parity remains the name of the game for Moore League girls’ soccer. While Lakewood took that pair of hard-fought losses against Wilson and Poly in the first week of league play, Millikan is still cruising along undefeated, now that they’ve beaten Jordan and Cabrillo, to improve to 10-0-2. Alex Karlowitsch had a hat trick for the Rams against the Panthers, and Kayla Edwards put in a trio against the Jaguars. But league powers Wilson and Poly look just as strong after two weeks of league play. Wilson beat Compton 11-0 in their final Moore League game of 2011, as Sierra Skelly notched four assists in the first 15 minutes of the game. Poly beat Marina in nonleague play last week before taking down Jordan 3-0, with goals by Celeste Dominguez, Sydney Ellis and Kirstyn Nold. Poly will host Wilson on Jan. 10 in the first Moore League contest after the winter break. Boys’ Soccer As expected, the defending Moore League champs, nation-

ally-ranked Millikan, got off to a strong start to the league schedule. Millikan’s defense once again shone in a 3-1 win over Wilson that saw the Bruins’ only goal come on penalty kick. The Rams are 10-1-1 overall and have given up just four goals in those 12 games — remarkably, two of them are by PK. “The team is working hard,” Petkovic said. “And with a young team like ours, you have to build a defense first.” Millikan’s speedy, quick-reading defense looks like it’s pretty polished already. Cabrillo, the other ranked team in the Moore League, also is off to a perfect start. Those two frontrunners are joined by the upstart Poly Jackrabbits. Predicted as a sixth-place team by one local publication, Poly is instead 2-0 after a 4-0 win over Compton and a 3-0 win against Lakewood on the road.

The boys’ soccer schedule will tell us how the league will shake out sooner than later; on the LB schools’ first week back from the break in January, the Rams will host the Jaguars, and Poly will host Wilson and Jordan, who were predicted to be the league’s two playoff teams beneath Millikan and Cabrillo. Wrestling The Millikan Rams took a big step towards another Moore League championship last week with a comeback win over Poly, rallying from a 22-9 deficit to win 34-31. “They were better than us to-

night,” said Poly coach Bart Roper of the dual. “Marshall does a great jobs with his kids and they stepped up when they needed to and we didn’t.” “We knew their heavyweights would be better than ours, and we felt that we were strong in the lightweights and middleweights,” said Millikan coach Marshall Thompson of the victory. “We felt that they couldn’t match up with us down there and our boys stepped it up when it mattered.” Poly’s next dual meet will be against Lakewood after the holiday break, while Millikan will face Compton and Jordan.


Page 10B | GRUNION GAZETTE | December 29, 2011

HOLIDAY SPIRIT

—Courtesy Millikan High School

Long Beach Boys and Girls Club youth were treated to Christmas gifts, carols and a pancake breakfast this month by the Millikan High School baseball team, coaches and booster club.

On The Water (Continued from Page 8B)

catamarans typically starting last. All sail the same course, so the order of finishes is the order of scores. The other thing is that the Notice of Race, the formal document that lays out the terms of the contest, is decidedly informal. It includes such tidbits as, “rules that seem applicable or appropriate and even inapplicable or inappropriate will be as decided by the Race Officer,” and, “The Race Officer will award or deduct points based on the degree of cooperation shown, number of silly questions directed at him, general congeniality of the skipper and … gifts received. Boats which get this combination wrong will

Happy New Year

not win any prizes.” Since Boxing Day itself falls on a weekday, the race will be on Saturday, Dec. 31. Racing will begin somewhere around 1 p.m., and finishes will be taken about two-and-a-half hours later. The best thing, however, from a spectating standpoint, is that the entire race will take place within the confines of Alamitos Bay. The bay will be full of boats of all sizes, shapes and rigs, which will make for fun sightseeing for anyone around that afternoon. If you want more information on the event, go to the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club website, www. abyc.org. There is a link to a the race webpage on the Current Event column on the left side of the homepage. Or call ABYC at 494-9955.


December 29, 2011 | GRUNION GAZETTE | Page 11B

Hawaiian Christmas Brings Blessings To Monson’s Crew By Ryan ZumMallen Staff Writer

As he had done so many times, Don Monson opened the Bible, turned to the Book of Matthew and began to read aloud. It is a Christmas Day tradition practiced by the Monson family every year. Don, father of Long Beach State head basketball coach Dan and a 32-year coach himself, recalling the birth of Jesus with loved ones gathered round. This was no different. Well, there were a few exceptions. Instead of a family room, Don read from the banquet hall of the Waikiki Beach Sheraton hotel that had served as team film room for the past three days. Instead of blood relatives, Don was surrounded by the entire 49er basketball team, and the families of assistant coaches Rod Palmer and Vic Couch. Instead of the beautiful 65-degree weather of Long Beach, the temperature was the, well, slightly more beautiful 80-degree weather of Honolulu. Other than that, it was no different from any traditional Monson family Christmas. That’s no accident. Monson came to the three-game Diamond Head Classic at the Chaminade University of Honolulu in need of change. Earlier in the week, the team had arrived

together, admiring the scenery and posing for photos on the white sands, but they had not arrived a family. Long Beach last played in a sleepwalking 22-point victory over Division II Eastern New Mexico. Monson gathered his team in the media room where they would eat Christmas dinner in a few days, and played film that showed a lackadaisical, uninterested 49er team. Players didn’t look upset during poor plays. They didn’t cheer for good ones. They didn’t play for each other. With their opening game in the Diamond Head Classic a battle with No. 15 Xavier, Monson couldn’t have a repeat performance. He next pulled out tape of the 49ers’ November upset of then-No. 9 Pittsburgh. The contrast was startling: emotion spilled out of every player on every possession. This is the effort they needed, and it’s what they brought to victories over Xavier and then Auburn the following night. Heading into a day off on Saturday, Monson now had the family he had hoped would come together in The Aloha State. With the Diamond Head Classic championship against Kansas State looming on Sunday, the team celebrated Christmas a day early. They took a team visit to Pearl Harbor, then came together to say grace and eat. Dur-

ing the following gift exchange, 9-year-old Mollie Monson and 6-year-old McKenna played Santa, delivering wrapped gifts that the players had picked out for one another. The next day, several players walked to church service with the Monsons. The 49ers have traveled more than 20,000 miles in less than two months, and spending the holidays away from immediate family takes its toll. Some players have ailing relatives back home. With so much on his players’ minds, Monson needed to add valuable, familial experiences for them to embrace. That he did. In his 15 seasons as a head coach, Monson says he considers this the most productive trip he has taken with any of his teams, and that’s saying something. He calls this group the second most tight-knit he’s ever led, second only to the 1998 Gonzaga team that personified the term “Cinderella” on their shocking run to the Elite Eight. The 49ers were back to their old selves on the court — cheering and chattering and involved with each other. Monson couldn’t be happier. But he does wish the outcome had been different. Long Beach fell behind almost immediately in the title game against Kansas State and could not dig themselves out

COASTAL ALLIANCE

of the early hole. After two impressive wins, the 49ers had dreamt of a Diamond Head championship, and it was not to be. Perhaps more importantly, a double-digit loss to an unranked team on a neutral court will not sit well with the March Madness selection committee. Disappointment wafted through the locker room. If the team took a step back, however, they also took one forward. Monson found his squad scratching and fighting, together, working feverishly during timeouts to find a remedy. Even with the loss, the 49ers are exactly where they need to be as they prepare to begin the Big West Conference schedule, which they will on Jan. 2 at Irvine and Jan. 5 at home for Cal Poly. Plus, they now have something to prove: the loss likely knocks them out of contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Time will tell. The team boarded a flight back to the mainland immediately after the loss. Monson stayed behind, though. He had hardly left his hotel in five days, and finally ventured out with his family. They spent their last night exploring the Waikiki strip and returned to Long Beach the next morning. A new Christmas tradition, perhaps.


Page 12B | GRUNION GAZETTE | December 29, 2011


December 29, 2011 | GRUNION GAZETTE | Page 13B


PAGE 14B | GRUNION GAZETTE | December 29, 2011

is a proud sponsor of: HIGH SCHOOL BOYS

ATHLETES of the week

HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS

COLLEGE MEN

Jordan Bell, Poly Basketball

Michaela Reed, Wilson Basketball

Mike Caffey, LBSU Basketball

Larry Anderson, LBSU Basketball

The junior power forward for the Jackrabbits had a great week. In the early game against Cabrillo, he had 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals, but it was Friday night’s championship-caliber performance against Compton that amazed. Against Poly’s top league foe, Bell turned in basketball’s most prized stat, notching a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks that helped run Poly’s league winning streak to 28.

The Moore League’s best girls’ basketball player who’s not a Jackrabbit or a Ram shone in the first week of league play. In the Bruins’ first game, a big win over Jordan, the junior had 21 points with 8 rebounds and 4 steals. She followed it up with a 21-point 5-board performance in limited minutes during a blowout of Lakewood. Reed is averaging 17 points per game this season for Wilson.

There weren’t many college games played by Long Beach teams last week, but Caffey was the unexpected star in what was undeniably the biggest. The freshman came off the bench in the 49ers’ upset win over No. 15 Xavier to turn in a poised performance that had the ESPN announcers raving about his potential, with a team-leading 14 points and 2 steals in 23 minutes of play. The frosh shot 66% for LBSU on the week.

The senior did a great job compensating for his backcourt mate Casper Ware having a rough offensive stretch in Hawaii, playing well enough to be the only 49er named to the Diamond Head Classic All-Tournament Team. Anderson, a Jordan graduate, averaged 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2 steals per game in Long Beach State’s 2-1 performance, leading the team in scoring over the three-game stretch.

ON THE WEB ~ Moore League boys’ basketball got underway last week with a marquee matchup between the Poly Jackrabbits and Compton Tarbabes. Both teams are highly touted in Division I and II, and the defensive intensity in Ron Palmer Pavilion last Friday is a big reason why. You can watch the highlight videos right now at GazettesSports.com. You can watch any video on our YouTube Channel under GazettesSports. ~ SportsNight, the only radio show where you can talk Long Beach sports, will be back from the holiday break on Thursday, Jan. 5. We come to you at noon every Thursday LIVE on the KBeach Global Radio airwaves, and we’ll be talking about Long Beach basketball with a mailbag full of your questions about what we missed during the break. You can leave you questions in our comment section at GazettesSports. com, or send to fiddler@gazettes.com. ~ Is this weekly print edition not enough Long Beach sports for you? Sign up for our daily email newsletter from GazettesSports.com. Every morning you can wake up to a rundown of everything on the web site right there in your inbox just like a daily sports section. To sign up you can enter your email address in the “Sign up for our Email Newsletter” box below the advertisements on the right side of the page.

By Mike Guardabascio SPORTS EDITOR

Welcome back to By the Books, where we break down how all the Long Beach teams are doing in polls both local and national. With the CIF rankings on a winter holiday until January, we’ll use the next few weeks to examine national polls and trends. The Poly boys’ basketball team continues its climb up virtually every rankings ladder there is, having cracked the top 40 on ESPN’s national rankings (up to No. 37) and reaching even higher on MaxPreps.com. Poly is No. 20 in the nation and No. 3 in the state, there, behind only Mater Dei and Loyola. Poly’s girls’ team have re-entered the national discussion after a strong performance at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona. Their 3-1 output has them up to No. 8 in the nation on MaxPreps, and No. 4 in the state. After a disappointing loss that dropped them out of the national rankings, the Millikan boys’ soccer team is back in the ESPN Top 50, coming in at No. 49 in the country after several strong wins, including last week’s 3-1 victory over Wilson in the Moore League opener. Of course, soccer is such

a California-specific sport that there are 16 teams in the state ranked ahead of the Rams in that poll. Now, due respect to the local high school teams, there is no team in the last five years that provided more fascinating angles to observe in national polls and rankings than this year’s Long Beach State men’s basketball team. At one point a Top 10 team in Sports Illustrated’s power rankings, they were still receiving votes in the AP Top 25 last week, and are currently still burning up the RPI rankings. RPI is the formula the NCAA heavily relies on when putting together their tournament brackets. Despite being just 7-6 overall, the 49ers are currently the No. 12 team in the nation in terms of RPI. No other team with more than three losses is in the Top 30. The ranking means that if the season were to end today, they’d not only get an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, they’d likely be seeded. Since they play in the lowly Big West, however, a conference that always serves to dynamite positive RPI because of its low level of competition, that number will plummet almost immediately, as they open conference play next week. Long Beach will likely have to go 16-0 in the Big West and win their ESPN Bracket Buster game to even have a shot at remaining in the Top 50.


December 29, 2011 | GRUNION GAZETTE | Page 15B

RECORD MARATHON

All-Moore League List Awards By JJ Fiddler Sports Editor

—Gazette photo by William Johnson

More than 20,000 people took the city streets by foot and ran in the Long Beach Marathon on Oct. 9.

By JJ Fiddler Sports Editor

THURSDAY LBSU Women’s Basketball vs. UC Riverside, 7 p.m. @ Walter Pyramid The 49ers (5-8) continue their home stand tonight with their first conference game since losing to UC Santa Barbara last March in the Big West Conference Tournament. The Highlanders (2-9) have a balanced attack but only have wins over Idaho and Cal State Bakersfield. Sophomore center Natasha Hadley (#31, 6’2”) and junior guard TreShon Nottingham (#14, 5’5”) both lead the team with 13 points per game while freshman forward Jessica Ogunnorin (#3, 5’11”) is averaging nine points per game with a team-high six rebounds per game. Nottingham also has a staggering 38 steals on the year, but Riverside starts slow (averaging 25 points in first half), so the 49ers need to take a sizable lead into halftime so they can cruise to yet another home victory. MONDAY LBSU Men’s Basketball @ UC Irvine, 7 p.m. Coming off a very successful trip to Hawaii over the holidays, the 49ers return to SoCal to see the Anteaters (3-9), who are coming off a victory over Hope International and their first Big West Conference game against Cal State Northridge (tonight, Thursday) after losing to UCLA by 29 points. Irvine and Long Beach

have played some classic Black & Blue Rivalry games over the last few seasons, but this year the Anteaters will be without center Eric Wise (transfer) for the first time in three years. Filling that hole on the scoreboard are junior guards Daman Starring (#22) and Long Beach native Mike Wilder (#23) who average 12 and 10 points, respectively. Filling the hole in the middle is freshman Will Davis II (#3, 6’8” 210 lbs.) who is averaging eight points, six rebounds and nearly a block a game. The Anteaters are just 3-9 so far this year, but with their run-and-gun style and good shooters, they are very dangerous. If Long Beach State wants to start 2012 and the Big West Conference schedule on the right foot, they need to rule the paint and get to all the loose balls to limit Irvine’s offensive possessions. TUESDAY LBSU Men’s Volleyball Exhibition vs. British Columbia, 7 p.m. @ Walter Pyramid It’s become a tradition for the 49ers to open their season with teams from Canada because they are quality sides in the middle of their regular schedule, which makes the exhibition much more competitive than playing a Division II opponent. The Thunderbirds (7-3) are led by Robert Bennett (#13) and David Zeyha (#9), who average almost three kills per set.

At the end of every season, the Moore League coaches meet to decide who the best players were in their respective sports. And just as importantly, to decide who gets a patch for their lettermen’s jacket. Obviously, football is the fall marquee sport and it showed on the All-Moore League list, as 90 young men made the first or second team for the 2011 season. Highlighting the group are Co-Players of the Year Daruis Powe of Lakewood and John Ross of Jordan. Powe, who has verbally committed to attend Cal, was the best player on both sides of the ball for the Lancers this season as a shut down corner and go-to receiver. Injury limited his time on defense, but he was still able to put up 560 receiving yards (15 yard average) and haul in nine touchdowns. He also was the area’s top football recruit, listed as a Top 10 receiver in the nation by some recruiting sites. Ross, who was only a junior this season, was the most electrifying player in Long Beach this season with six kickoff returns for touchdowns. He also was the best defensive back for Jordan and averaged

five tackles per game. On the girls’ side, volleyball had the most awardees with 30 players and maybe the most talented athlete in the city, Player of the Year Rebecca Strehlow. The Wilson Bruin did it all for her team this year, just months after representing America on the beach courts this summer. Strehlow will play for national champion UCLA next year. In cross-country, Poly ruled the list once again with 13 of the 28 athletes awarded. Miguel Bautista and Jessica Gonzales led the Jackrabbits to yet another sweep of the Moore League titles. As for boys’ water polo, Wilson won the CIF title, so they rightly earned 10 of the 24 spots, including Co-Players of the Year Jackson Kimbell and Thomas Martinho. In girls’ golf, Poly’s Jamie Gracie, Kristel Estoque and Rachel Ogata shared the spotlight with Wilson’s Alexis Hayes, Alicia Arzaga and Shemaiah Javillonar after a memorable season that came down to the final day. And in girls’ tennis, Wilson dominated the doubles list with three of the five teams listed. The full list is published at GazettesSports.com.


PAGE 20B | GRUNION GAZETTE | December 29, 2011 FOR SALE

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December 29, 2011 | GRUNION GAZETTE | Page 21B

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ATTENTION ADVERTISERS!!! We Now Offer Same Day Online Updates at www.Gazettes.com Call Bob & Jessica 562-433-2000 to Place Your Ad & Start Getting Calls Today


PAGE 22B | GRUNION GAZETTE | December 29, 2011

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December 29, 2011 | GRUNION GAZETTE | PAGE 23B

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Gazette Sports 12-29-11