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A golden Foothill season

Another league season in the books

Posted: February 14, 2009 1:09 a.m.
Updated: February 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Golden Valley's Steven Thorton (5) puts up a shot as West Ranch's Will Tate (13) defends Thursday at West Ranch High School. The Grizzlies' Foothill League title in boys basketball is the first championship in school history.

 

At last, Golden Valley has won a Foothill League championship.

The Grizzlies clinched a share of the boys basketball title on Tuesday by defeating Valencia, and then Golden Valley won it outright by routing West Ranch on Thursday.

It is the first league title for the school, which opened in 2004, and this Grizzly team won the atitle with a bull’s-eye on its back all season long.

Long-range assassin Maverick Ahanmisi teamed with athletic junior Trevor Wiseman and skilled point guard Steven Thornton to lead Golden Valley to several impressive wins during the non-league schedule.

The Grizzlies lived up to the hype by dropping just one Foothill League contest, a four-point decision at Hart.

The Indians provided the stiffest competition for Golden Valley all season. The two teams split the four games they played, including a pair of non-league tilts.

Hart kept Golden Valley in its sights until the last day of the season, but a setback at West Ranch during the first half of the league schedule kept Hart at least one game back for most of the year.

West Ranch was embroiled in a race of its own – the push for third place and a guaranteed playoff spot.

Unfortunately, the Wildcats’ schedule was back-loaded and they lost their final three games against Golden Valley, Hart and Valencia.

The Vikings snagged the final playoff spot despite graduating all five starters from their 2008 league championship team. Valencia shook off an opening-night loss to Saugus – which shared last place with Canyon – and a narrow loss at Hart to start the season, finishing 5-5.

Valencia sophomore Lonnie Jackson averaged 23.4 points per game to lead the Foothill League in scoring and is one of the leading candidates for league MVP, along with Golden Valley’s star trio and Hart’s Parker Dominguez, who averaged a double-double during league play.

In girls basketball, Saugus captured the outright Foothill League title by racing past Hart and catching a break when Canyon nipped Valencia, which had been tied with Saugus at 7-2 heading into Thursday.

Although the Centurions shared the league championship last year, the loss of six seniors had some questioning if they could repeat under first-year head coach Kent Eaton.

Saugus made a statement on opening night by going to Valencia and beating the Vikings, after which senior forward Gabrielle Conn referenced this very media outlet as a source of motivation.

Call it the wrath of Conn.

All jokes aside, Conn and senior guard Nicole Hicks, who broke the school’s single-season girls basketball scoring record in the last game of the year, formed a potent combination that led Saugus to the top of the league again.

Valencia finished second behind a core of underclassmen and senior forwards Starla Wright and Danielle Cavanagh, who gave the Vikings an inside-outside threat in the front court. An injury forced Wright to miss two games in the middle of the schedule, including a loss at West Ranch.

The Wildcats, led by the guard/forward combination of Erin Ruiz and Brittani Walker, went 6-4 to claim the program’s first playoff berth. Canyon also finished 6-4, but West Ranch won both meetings during the regular season.

One of those wins was by forfeit, a penalty leveled against Canyon when it was determined that the program falsified residency records of two of its players. The controversy led to the dismissal of head coach Stan Delus, and Hart lost its point guard and leading scorer Amanda Corona for the same violation.

There was no such controversy in boys soccer. There was no question about the league champion, either.

Canyon needed just eight games to clinch the Foothill League title. The Cowboys went 6-1-1 during that stretch and racked up 19 points (soccer awards three points for a win, one for a tie and none for a loss).

Golden Valley still had a chance to catch Canyon in the standings last Saturday, but the Grizzlies tied Saugus, mathematically eliminating the team from the championship chase.

In fact, Golden Valley fell hardest of any Foothill League team this winter, going from second place to out of a guaranteed playoff spot in just one week.

It started with a big loss to Valencia on Tuesday and ended with a narrow defeat against West Ranch, which claimed third place thanks to its clutch performance.

Saugus wound up second thanks in large part to its five ties, which gave the team valuable points heading into the final week. The Centurions capitalized by defeating league-champion Canyon for the second time and dismantling Hart to finish with 17 points at 4-1-5.

Cowboys head coach Khris Savage credited senior co-captains Shaun McLaughlin and Andrew Wilson for the team’s success, and Canyon midfielder Alex McCaslin should also get some consideration for league MVP.

Saugus and West Ranch fielded very balanced sides, but Centurions midfielder Manny Padron could be in the MVP conversation, along with West Ranch central defender Colin Amsler.

The balance of power in girls soccer was locked between Canyon, Valencia and Saugus.

The Cowboys and Vikings battled to a scoreless draw on the final day of the season and ended up splitting the Foothill League title with identical 7-1-2 records.

Canyon won the tiebreaker for playoff seeding by virtue of a 3-1 victory over Valencia earlier in the season.

All three teams were 6-1-1 heading into the final week of the season, and Saugus had a chance to claim the league title outright. But the Centurions lost to Canyon 1-0 on Tuesday before defeating Hart on Thursday to finish third.

The Indians proved to be a step below the top three. Hart was competitive in its six meetings with Canyon, Valencia and Saugus, but lost all of them except for one tie with Canyon.

Cowboys sweeper Milan Cabrera and Centurions midfielder Jamie Molacek are the leading candidates for league MVP, while Kristen Bos’ 15 goals were critical for a balanced Valencia team.

jgulino@the-signal.com

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