Monday’s Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table started with more memories of the late Joni Gray – this time via an email from a longtime area reporter and a friend of Gray’s.
Round Table treasurer Yvonne Biely helped start things off by reading a letter from Brad Memberto – who covered the weekly luncheon at Giavanni’s Pizzeria in Orcutt during his time with Lee Central Coast Newspapers.
“I’m truly heartbroken by the passing of my friend Joni Gray,” Biely read. “Her personality could light up an entire stadium. Her support of local high school and college student-athletes was matched by none. Her love of sports was infectious even when she was wrong on a fact or cheered for USC. I’m thankful for what she has done for the Round Table. Her replacement will have to work overtime to match what she was able to accomplish. We now know heaven has a new cheerleader.”
The luncheon then shifted focus to Santa Maria High football – honoring the Saints for their CIF Southern Section Division 12 title chase which ended in a 37-23 loss to Big Bear on Saturday, ending the Saints’ season at 9-5 overall. The Saints weren’t present at the luncheon, but everyone inside Giavanni’s gave a round of applause for the Saints’ run.
“They fell short, but as their head coach (Dan Ellington) said: They had the heart of a champion and it’s never easy to make it to a championship game – so we’ll give them a round of applause,” said Round Table emcee Charles Sommer.
The luncheon ended with this Cabrillo basketball sweep for Male and Female Athlete of the Week: LeAndrew Knight and Erin Jenkins. Knight scored 47 points against Sanger in Saturday's 80-64 loss in the Nordhoff Tournament, while Jenkins was named the Coachella Valley Tournament Most Valuable Player for leading CHS to an undefeated run in the Palm Desert region.
“I’m really excited for our season this year. I also always thank my coaches and teammates for pushing me to do my best,” Jenkins said.
Added Knight: “I want to thank my coaches and teammates. We were actually short-handed with some of our players injured. But it was a good tournament and I’m looking forward to league next week and defending our title.”
Dick Barrett got things started by giving his exuberant praise toward the Braves girls soccer team which stunned Oxnard 1-0 on Saturday, the girls basketball team which has been led by the lone senior Danielle Morgan and the other winter sports.
He had this trio from the girls soccer team on hand: Ayziah Simmons, Marina Tamayo and Katie Guzman.
Athletic director Chad McKenzie was next on the microphone to talk about the winter sports for the Spartans – sharing his most excitement about the boys basketball team’s performance at the weekend Santa Clarita Tournament that saw the Spartans finish at 2-1 overall.
Basketball players Marc Pyle and Colin Otremba were present for OAHS boys basketball. Abigail Valencia and Keanna Ackerman represented the girls soccer team.
The deepest group came from CHS – with girls soccer, girls water polo and both boys and girls basketball all on hand.
Boys basketball head coach C.J. Simmons spoke about the Conqs’ performance down in the Nordhoff Tournament – including Knight’s breakout game of 47 points. Casey Folk was the other basketball player from CHS at the luncheon.
Girls soccer players Morgan Christen and Tianna Wright spoke on behalf of their team. Girls water polo players Gretchen Von Protz and Mary Rhodes shared their season so far for CHS. Lastly, Jenkins was joined by her teammate and younger sister Jesse.
Valley Christian Academy
Pete Fortier is officially in basketball mode, as he not only brought out two Lion round ball players, but also had head coach Chris Maples on hand.
Andrew Sparlin and Ethan McCoy were the Lion basketball players who were inside Giavanni’s.
Al Garcia took the stage first for the Knights to talk about his girls soccer team and had Blanca Diaz and Amaya Hernandez present.
Then, Matt Chavez spoke on behalf of an injured Knights boys basketball head coach Tom Mott – who walked into Giavanni’s on crutches. Chavez was joined by teammate Michael Ramirez.
Girls soccer head coach Gabriel Velasco gave praise to the Santa Maria High football team before introducing his girls – saying how he’s a class of 1995 alum of SMHS. Velasco’s players were Sasha Brafman and Alison Magni.
Former Cabrillo girls water polo head coach Ryan Hill then took the microphone to talk about taking over the Panthers girls program, as players Candice Morales and Charlotte Ionata were on hand.
Last for the Panthers was Jeff Montero, who spoke on behalf of an ill Greg Lanthier – as the boys basketball head coach and athletic director wasn’t present for the luncheon. Montero had Michael Bourbon, Salvador Villa and Steven Fuerte representing the Panther basketball players.
Women’s basketball head coach Cary Nerelli returned to the Round Table for the second straight week and had his player Karly Beyers on hand.
Athletic director Kim Ensing was also with AHC at the luncheon.
Not present at the Round Table were Santa Ynez, Righetti and Santa Maria.