Cambrian: Sports

Coast Union basketball leads parade of athletic success in 2017

Senior Riley Kennedy was named Coast Union High School Male Athlete of the Year for the 2017-18 school year.
Senior Riley Kennedy was named Coast Union High School Male Athlete of the Year for the 2017-18 school year.

Two thousand and seventeen was a very good year for Coast Union’s student athletes. Not every team ended up as champions, not every participant qualified for a season-ending award, and not every dream of athletic excellence was achieved.

But every student athlete who suited up put forward best efforts in competition. And at the end of the day, the collaboration with teammates — learning social skills, teamwork, getting in great physical shape and reaching out to help a player who is struggling — prepares Coast Union’s students for the sometimes rough-and-tumble world that awaits them after leaving the campus on Santa Rosa Creek Road.

The soccer teams, along with the volleyball, baseball, tennis, cross country, girls basketball and softball teams, showed spirit, class and skill. But hands down, Tim May’s 2016-17 basketball squad produced the brightest, most dramatic and triumphant results among some talented Coast sports teams.

Featuring seniors Roberto Cueva, Thor Ronemus, Nick Roper, Auggie Johnson, Jez Lawson and the MacKinnon twins (Jack and Sam), plus junior Riley Kennedy, May’s team racked up a eyebrow-raising 22-4 record. This was the most outstanding Coast boys basketball team in more than two decades.

After knocking off traditionally tougher schools like Templeton, Mission Oak, Cate, Thacher, Carpinteria and Flintridge Prep, the Broncos steamrolled through the Coast Valley League with a 10-0 record.

Following a bye in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5A playoffs, Coast humbled Besant Hill (49-19) and defeated Faith Baptist (43-33). Johnson led scoring with 11 points, while Lawson poured in 10 against Besant Hill. Lawson led the team with 16 against Faith Baptist, with Jack MacKinnon adding 10.

Having qualified for the semifinals, it was on to Riverside to play a team of robustly talented Native Americans — the Sherman Indian School — but the Broncos took the long freeway trek back home having ended their season on the short end of a 53-48 score.

There’s a story within the story here: The team’s van arrived in Riverside later than planned due after getting bogged down in hideously congested Southern California freeways.

The Broncos arrived at the venue around 6:20 for a 7 p.m. game, which meant the normal pregame rituals (a meal for the players and a chance to get their feet on the ground in a new basketball environment) were missing.

This is not to excuse the loss to the Sherman Indian School. The Indians were a team of brawny, well-coached sharpshooters, and while Lawson racked up 17 points (including 7 of 9 free throw attempts), and Jack MacKinnon led the Broncos with five rebounds and six assists, it wasn’t enough to get them to the finals.

Interviewed the week after the game, Lawson said: “Me and the boys have worked basically our whole lives for this one game. We wanted to go all the way to the CIF finals …coming up one game short is pretty hard for all of us.”

Johnson said the defeat was “devastating. We were the number one seed, and we expected to win it all. It was a shock. I’m still trying to get over it right now. But I will always remember that the most fun I ever had was playing basketball with those friends.”

Lawson was Coast’s and the CVL’s Most Valuable Player, and first-team All-CIF. Johnson earned first-team All-CIF, first-team All-CVL and was Coast’s Offensive Player of the Year. Jack MacKinnon made first-team All-CVL, second-team All-CIF and won the Coach’s Award from May.

There have been other great Bronco teams. To wit, the girls basketball squad won the 2009 CIF Division 5A championship, thanks to a nail-biting, 44-42 win over Fresno Christian. The 2013 football team made it to the CIF Division 5A championship game before losing at Faith Baptist.

Coach Pam Kenyon’s 2011 volleyball team captured the CIF Division 5A Championship in front of a packed house at Cuesta College. The soccer and baseball teams have gone deep into the playoffs as well.

Other 2017 highlights

▪ Baseball — Coach Brian Machado’s club had a good year on the immaculate ball field that the coach and his assistants groomed before and throughout the season. The team won 12 of 20 games overall, going 6-0 and winning the CVL. But after winning CIF playoff games over Trinity Classical Academy (4-3) and Albert Einstein Academy (8-1), the team was shutout in the Mojave Desert by Boron, 10-0. Riley Kennedy was the team MVP and made the All-CIF first team; Machado named Thor Ronemus as Best Offensive Player and Jack MacKinnon as Best Defensive Player.

▪ Boys tennis — Coach Tom Coxwell’s tennis team didn’t win a lot of matches, often going up against larger schools, but doubles partners Paul Butterfield and Eric Hollingshead were given co-MVP awards. “I can’t say enough about Paul and Eric,” Coxwell said.

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Junior pitcher Ani Corbet won Coast Union and Coast Valley League MVP honors for her softball prowess. Cambrian file photo

▪ Softball — First-year coach Steve Kniffen expressed pride in his team, which won the CVL title with an 8-0 record. The Broncos then ran into a superior Santa Ynez team from the Los Padres League and dropped a 13-0 decision in their playoff opener. Ani Corbet won Coast’s and the league’s MVP awards.

▪ Soccer — Coming into 2018, the girls soccer program (under new head coach Brooklin Brumund) has a 3-6 record, including two wins at the Garces Tournament in Bakersfield (over Chavez and Wasco). The boys team, under new head coach Omar Catalan is 4-9, including wins over Bakersfield Christian and Firebaugh.

▪ Girls Tennis — Coach Shannon Sutherland’s tennis team put together a 7-7 record, including two wins over Dunn School and over Mission Prep. Sutherland’s team got into a CIF Division 5A playoff but fell to Nordhoff, 13-5. Zoe Markham was selected as MVP of Sutherland’s team.

▪ Football — Head coach Ron Garcia and offensive coordinator Charlie Casale put together a 3-1 record in the CVL, and the team was 5-4 overall. Quarterback Riley Kennedy – who injured his hand and was relegated to running back and receiver late in the season — was given the MVP award.

▪ Cross Country — Coach Ayen Johnson announced the winner of the Most Valuable Award for the cross country team, and as expected, it went to senior Paul Butterfield – his third in a row for the Broncos.

▪ Volleyball — Kenyon’s volleyball team played more games than any other Coast team – compiling a 17-13-1 record while winning the CVL at 10-0. Unfortunately Coast’s season came to an end with a 3-0 loss in the first round of the CIF Division 8 playoffs.

▪ Girls basketball — New coach Keith Stowers has his girls team going through a tough early-season schedule against bigger schools, and the team is 2-6 entering this week. CVL play begins Jan. 9 against Shandon. The 2016-17 Lady Broncos were 13-6 and won the CVL crown at 10-0; they beat Newbury Park Adventist (23-14); but lost in the second round of the CIF Division 5A playoffs to Santa Clarita Christian (35-31).