When recollections of a great Coast Union High School Bronco team and its greatest moments come back into focus, those memories bring with them pride, residual passions and even a fascinating irony, as this tale of one of the most successful basketball teams in school history tells.
Question: Which CUHS varsity basketball team has gone farther into the playoffs than any boys team in Bronco history?
Answer: The 1999 team won CIF Central Section and got into — but lost — the state tournament semi-finals for Division V, by a score of 57-52.
Members of that team that were interviewed for this story include Roberto Covey, Tim May and Nick Gonzales, the top player from the Broncos’ semi-final opponent, Christian High of El Cajon. The leader on offense for Coast Union in 1999, Matt Brody, was not available for this article.
Today Bronco guard Roberto Covey — the son of Shanny Covey of Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria — manages Luna Red restaurant in San Luis Obispo; Tim May is in his 11th year as head coach of Coast Union boys varsity basketball team; Brody is an EMT for the Santa Barbara Fire Department; and Nick Gonzales is with San Diego Custom Carpentry.
Fourteen years ago, in March 1999, these two teams were locked in a back and forth battle for a chance to go to the state finals for Division V basketball. The game was played at Morro Bay High School because Coast Union’s gymnasium wasn’t big enough to hold the crowd that was expected. The Broncos were down 41-22 early in the third quarter but they came back to make it close late in the fourth quarter, 52-48.
In the final quarter of that close game, Covey, a 5-foot, 9-inch guard, known for his quickness and his ability to sink three-pointers, remembers there were opportunities to score the tying points towards the end of the game but luck was not on the Broncos’ side.
Covey was interviewed Monday, July 22, and said he knew all along that getting into the state tournament was “something all of us could do together, because we had played so long together. We did a lot of work in the summer,” Covey recalls. “We went to Arizona for basketball camps — where we played three games a day against bigger and better schools — and spent most of the year playing basketball together.”
Covey clearly had talent because Cal-Hi Sports named Covey to its “Division V All-State Boys Basketball Team for 1998-1999,” but Covey remembers the huge contributions that his teammates made to that team.
Tim May would come into the game and “bring on some good energy. He had great speed and he could jump really high, too.” Covey believes that several other players on that team were selected to all-league teams, “which has never happened in our school before.”
As for Matt Brody, “he was the quarterback for our team; he controlled the tempo and he was the guy who wanted the ball in his hands and it was hard for opponents to take it away from him,” Covey continued.
Tim May was interviewed and recalled that the team was made up of a “core group of guys that played any chance we got.” He remembers the trips to Arizona and the basketball camps that toughened up his team. “Drew Brause was another integral part of that team,” May mentioned. Brause was a three-point sharpshooter.
The Tucson trips — in the summers prior to their junior and senior seasons at Coast — were “great camaraderie, team-building moments,” May explained. “We were playing against teams we really shouldn’t be playing against but we knew we could hang with them and that gave us confidence.” It paid off during the season as the Broncos went 24-4.
As to Brody’s skills, coach May said “Coast Union hasn’t had a point guard like him since that year.” May remembers that the Broncos had the ball in that semi-final contest with the chance to get close but the referee whistled a five-second violation and the ball went over to El Cajon, sealing the defeat for Coast.
Nick Gonzales, the guard playing for Christian High School in San Diego, Coast Union’s opponent, who was guarding Covey the entire game, said in a phone interview he blocked a pivotal shot by Covey late in the game.
“He actually got the shot off,” Gonzales remembers, “but I was able to jump up and block it in the air. I got it pretty high in the air.” Looking back, Gonzales recalls that the Broncos and his team were from “the same mold. Like us, they grew up playing basketball together. Like us they all knew and liked each other.
“We had built up a pretty big lead but Coast Union came roaring back,” Gonzales explained. In fact Coast Union went on a 13-2 run to make it interesting. But Covey, whose passion to win that game hasn’t been diminished by time, sighed and said, “I really wish we would have won that game.”
The post-game romantic connection
An interesting irony attached to this story is that several years after that heart-breaking, semi-final loss, two hearts from opposite sides of that contentious 1999 contest were joined in holy matrimony.
Gonzales, the leading scorer for Christian High that day, later married Katrina Koontz, the daughter of Coast Union’s then-assistant girl’s junior varsity coach, Bruce Koontz, who was on hand for that tense playoff game in Morro Bay in 1999.
Katrina, who graduated from Coast Union in 2000, left Cambria and attended Christian Heritage College (now called San Diego Christian College) in San Diego. She played on the volleyball team. Gonzales also was in attendance at Christian Heritage, and he played basketball and other sports.
In time, the two met, courted, and were married. Katrina’s father, Cambria realtor Bruce Koontz, remembers meeting his daughter’s future husband as well as other players from that team. Many players on the team that beat the Broncos also attended the Christian Heritage College.
“I liked the Gonzales (family),” Koontz explained. “He played basketball, soccer, and cross country — and he worked two or three jobs. He was impressive.” As to his daughter marrying the man who helped to ruin Coast Union’s chances of going to the state championship, in hindsight former Bronco assistant coach Koontz is a little baffled.
“My daughter was about as ‘Coast Union-rah-rah’ as anyone,” Koontz recalls. “I almost got a teaching job in Templeton, and she just looked at me and said, ‘Don’t even think about it.’” So it is surprising, Koontz continued, “that she would date a guy who was the undoing of the Broncos in that playoff game.”
Koontz remembers Matt Brody very well. He recalls dropping Katrina off at grammar school in Cambria and seeing Brody, then a fourth grader, “orchestrating a basketball game in that parking lot. He looked like an 18-year-old playing with grammar school kids. He had that thing figured out.”
But on the night of March 11, 1999, Brody’s 14 points against Christian School of El Cajon weren’t enough. “We just dug ourselves a hole,” he was quoted as saying in The Cambrian. Still, because the Bronco seniors had gone 44-0 in league games at home during his career, Brody added that “it was pretty much great playing ball here. It meant everything.”
Aug. 6: A caption on a photo of a team celebration accompanying this story has been corrected to include the name of the player at the far right.
Email John FitzRandolph at firstname.lastname@example.org.