Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Keeping cool after tough loss

Terrance Harris had a right to be really upset Wednesday night. But he wasn't.

Well, I wasn't with the Mission Prep boys basketball coach all night. Maybe he went home after the Royals were upset 64-62 by Bakersfield Christian in the semifinals of the CIF-Central Section Division V playoffs and broke a stack of concrete blocks with a head butt like those karate guys on TV.

But whatever frustrations Harris might have had after a loss that, let's be honest, nobody saw coming — he kept them inside.

Seconds after the final buzzer sounded and the Royals had ended their first post-Tom-Mott-era playoff run with a disappointing loss, Harris calmly walked over and did a radio interview. Then he talked to me (which, I admit, isn't always THAT fun.)

In journalism school, at least mine, they tell you to give coaches and players a 10-minute period to get over the game. But Harris took no cool down time, no time to gather his emotions. Just, hey, let's do this. And it was a classy and respectable thing to do.

Mission Prep lost. And it was a bad loss. One they should have won had they come out a little more focused. Plus, the Royals were getting handcuffed by the referees.

I've seen plenty of other coaches from high school to college turn around after a game like that and blast the officiating, completely duck interviews or fire off "no comments."

Publicly, Harris stood tall, was accountable and made no excuses. That attitude was certainly refreshing.

If you see him around town with a Band-Aid on his head, though, give my condolences to the concrete blocks.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The third season

Sometimes people call the playoffs "the second season." It's a valid metaphor. Ask the Arroyo Grande High boys basketball team.

The Eagles took fifth place in the regular season and lost to rival Nipomo three times. But in the second season, the playoffs, they captured the imagination of central coast basketball fans.

Arroyo Grande's venture deep into the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division II-A playoffs had us all wondering wether an unseeded wild-card team could actually win a section title.

The second season. It's like "wait 'til next year" — just without all the waiting.

But Tuesday night marked the beginning of what I'm starting to call the third season.

That's when all of the bigger schools in the county have all been eliminated from the playoffs and small schools like Mission Prep and Coast Union start getting all the front page attention.

They're accustomed to it. The Mission Prep boys and girls are favored to win section titles. The girls are going for No. 15 in a row. For the boys, it would be No. 4, but the past two were stripped in a recruiting scandal. (TO disgruntled Royals fans: New Times used the 'S' word. I should at least get one freebie.)

The Royals girls have already cemented a spot in the state playoffs. Coast Union nearly joined them before being tripped up at home Tuesday. The Mission Prep boys can clinch an appearance with a win tonight.

This third season could potentially go on for another week or two. So get ready for some more "Royals Flush" and "Mission Accomplished" headlines.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Can the Eagles avoid turning into pumpkins?

Ryan Glanville's still not ready to say it, but I will — and have. Cinderella.

I've been on the Arroyo Grande boys basketball coach for days asking if his at-large team fits into the glass slipper, and I'll probably keep doing it.

I bugged him about it Friday night after I heard the Eagles upset No. 1-seeded Palmdale in the CIF-Southern Section Division II-A playoffs. A couple days later, calling from my cell phone about Athlete of the Week Daniel Wrage — and only coincidentally in an insanely long holiday-weekend line at Disneyland — Cinderella came up again.

After Tuesday's 47-44 win over Moreno Valley, I couldn't resist.

"You asked me about that the other day and it was 'definitely no,' " Glanville said. "Now we're a little closer."

Arroyo Grande is living that underdog story that everyone loves. The Eagles placed fifth in the PAC 7 and only squeaked into the playoffs through the good graces of the section seeding gurus.

They won a wild card game against Channel Islands, then toppled the No. 1 seed. Now, after another win, they're in the quarterfinals hosting No. 9 Norco with as good a chance as anybody else of taking a divisional title.

But looking too far ahead can be crippling. That's probably why Glanville's not ready to call his team a Cinderella. She charmed the prince and lived happily ever after.

But Arroyo Grande's got three more balls to attend before midnight. It's alright if the Eagles are taking them one at a time.

OK, that's enough fairy tale allusions for one blog. Sorry, the Magic Kingdom really messes with your mind.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A first of Titanic proportions

Would there be a spine-tingling chill? What would the fans be like? Would I be able to find any parking?

Since the Nipomo High boys basketball team was playing in its first playoff game in school history Wednesday — and that game was at home — I was just as curious to check out the atmosphere as I was to see the action. Who knew what to expect?

In the game, Antelope Valley beat the Titans 67-56. But here's a rundown of some of the little behind-the-scenes details I observed. We'll go chronologically.

• First off, the restroom didn't seem to have any extra playoff oomph. But I only went into the one marked "Men."

• Hands freshly cleaned, I got into the gym and saw the turnout. It wasn't bad. The home stands ended up tightly filled and the crowd packed a pretty good wallop.

• Student Jasmine McNeil sang the national anthem, and it was excellent. One of the top three renditions I've heard in almost a year at The Tribune. I wondered aloud if she got the gig through some kind of "Nipomo Idol."

• The public address announcer read the obligatory CIF-Southern Section please-don't-harass-the-refs speech, but I don't think anyone was listening.

• The chants of "De-fense! (clap, clap) De-fense!" started off pretty early, and it seemed the locals were eagerly anticipating their first playoff game, too. But when the Titans made just one of their first 11 shots, it sort of took some of the enthusiasm away.

• The Nipomo cheerleaders were in the house. It was the first time I'd seen them all year. But while Antelope Valley controlled the game in the first half, a small cluster of visting moms, who traveled three-and-a-half hours to see their Antelopes, did most of the cheering.

• On a side note, Antelopes sure is an imaginitive name for a team from Antelope Valley.

• Dominque Saunders explodes for 15 points in the third quarter, and a hush falls over the AV moms. The Nipomo crowd starts chanting "Our house!"

• The Titans fans file out looking disappointed. But I'll give them a good grade. It was a fun ride and the community did well for its first playoff game. Perhaps it was a good thing the restroom was subdued.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The others

Had enough of recruiting stories? Well, it's not over yet.

Though there were three San Luis Obispo County high school football standouts who signed national letters of Intent to play in college (all at Cal Poly) on Wednesday, don't expect them to be the only locals who'll be playing on Saturdays next fall.

Widely referred to as signing day, Wednesday marked the first day of the nearly two-month long regular period within players can sign. Several others will likely make decisions before the April 1 deadline.

Here's a list of a few local guys to watch:

• T Andrew Hall, Tempeton, 6-5, 260
• RB Harrison Keller, Mission Prep, 5-11, 185
• WR Kevin Martin, San Luis Obispo, 5-10, 160
• QB Conner Reese, San Luis Obispo, 6-3, 180
• T Dylan Gross, Morro Bay, 6-6, 295
• RB Kevin Scott, Morro Bay, 5-11, 180
• LB Reade Lobdill, Arroyo Grande, 5-9, 195
• DB Matt Lynch, Arroyo Grande, 5-11, 183
• OL Garrett Rodgers, Nipomo, 6-0, 243
• P Mike Trujillo, Nipomo, 6-1, 191
• DL Joe Murell, Coast Union, 6-3, 220

Did I forget to mention anyone? Then let's hear the scoop. And who do you think will make the biggest impact in college?