Ace free-throw shooter draws attention of local coaches

Dos Pueblos scholar-athlete of the year Britten Vilander

A seventh grader from St. Rafael’s School was the most sought-after person at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon.

Mitchell Cota’s excellence at the free-throw line drew the attention of high school and college basketball coaches in attendance in the Ranchero Room at Harry’s Plaza Cafe.

Why all the fuss?

Cota won district and Southern California titles in the annual Elks Hoop Shoot free-throw contest. He made 25 of 25 in the district competition and captured the Southern Cal title in a shoot-off with two other kids.

LeRoy Jeffers, chairman of the local Hoops Shoot, said Cota missed three of his first 10 free throws before sinking 14 of the next 15 to tie for first in the SoCal finals. In the shoot-off, he was a perfect 5-for-5.

“You can always use a good free thrower,” said Dave Loveton, sports information specialist at SBCC.

UCSB assistant coach David Campbell said senior Jaime Serna was dominant for the Gauchos in road wins at UC Davis (18 points) and Pacific (15 points, 12 rebounds).

“It was really, really good to see him put forth the kind of effort we’ve been waiting for all year,” Campbell said. “If we’re going to have the kind of season we want and finish strong, we’re really going to need him to step forward and really be the kind of player he was at the end of last year.”

San Marcos boys basketball coach Jarrod Bradley said he’s been getting bombarded with calls and text messages asking why the team is 4-4 in the Channel League.

“The reality is we’ve lost three games by a combined five points,” Bradley pointed out. “We win those games we’re 7-1 and in first place.”

After last week’s two-point loss at Santa Barbara, he told his team to keep everything in perspective. “It’s not the end of the world we’re 4-4. There are lessons to be learned. As a coach, there are things I can do differently.”

Bradley learned he should give Uriel Hurtado more playing time. Hurtado had nine points and three rebounds against Santa Barbara.

“He was solid for us. Look for him to play a lot more,” said the coach.

Bradley also introduced reserve Paxton Ridgway.

The coach offered congratulations to aquatics coach Brian “Chuckie” Roth for being named San Marcos Teacher of the Year. Roth is now in the running for County Teacher of the Year.

Unlike San Marcos, Santa Barbara High’s girls basketball team is on the other end of the spectrum in its last three games.

“We’ve lost our last three games by a total of 37 points,” coach Andy Butcher said. “I’d like to say we’re right there. Honestly we have not yet played our best basketball.”

Butcher introduced players Ivette Gil, Gigi Gallegos and Sylvia Hoover and said they arranged last Saturday’s “Think Pink” breast cancer awareness game. He also brought sophomore Maddie Carlentine.

Bishop Diego boys basketball assistant Patrick Davis cited Andre Kohansamad and Thomas Lash as two players who come off the bench and provide good quality minutes.

Laguna Blanca athletic director Mike Biermann said freshman Steven McCaffery has played well in place of injured Troy Ritter on the basketball team. He also praised the defensive play of Athlete of the Week Logan Elder. “He really pushes our team to the next level.”

Bishop Diego girls basketball coach Jeff Burich recognized freshman Jordyn Lilly for battling back from a knee surgery and making big contributions to the team. He also noted the improved play of post player Julia Jenkins.

Westmont’s men’s and women’s basketball teams had the pleasure of hosting a group of four coaches from Uganda.

Their visit was arranged by Westmont alum, Dr. Jens Olmi, assistant professor of health, exercise and sports sciences at Texas Tech and director of the International Sport Connection. It was funded by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Sports United Division.

The coaches — Nicholas Twesigye, Immaculate “Chocho” Nalwaddaa, Ayeet Timothy Odeke and Carolnie Nyafwono — also visited the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., watched a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and went to Columbia University and UCLA. Their next stop is Knoxville, Tenn., where they hope to meet coaching legend Pat Summitt.

Westmont men’s coach John Moore expressed his excitement about his team.

“We’ve got incredible unity, we’re 15-4 and we’re nationally ranked. If you want to come out and see a team that’s ferocious and fierce, come out and see us play Tuesday night (against Vanguard),” he said.

Kirsten Moore said she hopes her team can finish the way it started. Her No. 4 Warriors are 20-1 going into Tuesday’s showdown with ninth-ranked Vanguard.

Dos Pueblos athletic director Dan Feldhaus said it was a playoff atmosphere when Santa Barbara visited the Elings Aquatic Center for last week’s Channel League water polo match.

Speaking for coach Chris Parrish, Feldhaus said the 9-8 win will get the team ready for this weekend’s Southern California Championships in Newport Beach. Feldhaus brought goalie Britten Vilander, the Athlete of the Week, and senior Kodi Hill. “Chris calls her one of the best defenders in high school water polo,” said Feldhaus.

Hill has committed to UCLA, where she will join her sister, goalie Sami Hill.

Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said he had the pleasure of coaching Vilander and Kodi Hill in club water polo and they helped his team win a national championship.

Walsh praised DP’s performance and added his team learned a lot from that game.

“They left us a lot to learn. It will be good for us down the road and we’ll be better prepared for the playoffs. That’s what we’re looking for,” said Walsh.

He brought reserve players Megan Bergthold and Sophie Maes, who were instrumental in the Dons shutting out Ventura 11-0 last Tuesday.

San Marcos’ Roth said the season has been “full of ups and downs, but I’m really proud of where we’re at right now.”

He introduced players Miranda Day and Hannah Turk and noted the 7-14 record doesn’t how good the team is playing. The Royals have a huge game against Ventura on Tuesday.

After knocking off perennial league champion Malibu, Carpinteria girls water polo coach Bryan Swarm said, “If we finish out the season the way we think we will, we’ll at least get a part of the league championship, which will be a first for Carpinteria High School.”

Swarm brought team captains Morgan Cook and Tatiana Verdugo.

San Marcos girls soccer coach Christy Lozano cited Shayna Carroll and Sarah Andrews as two players who are playing with lots of confidence during a tough season.

The confidence is high at Carpinteria High for girls soccer. Lucy Carleton’s team finished the first round of Frontier League play undefeated and started the second round with a 2-1 overtime win at Bishop Diego.

Carleton introduced two key players who play the thankless positions on the field, goalkeeper Sally Lam and sweeper Kelsey Drain. Both players are three-sport athletes.

Laurie Leighty, SBART president-elect, announced that the annual Women in Sports Luncheon is next Monday at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. The event is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the law that requires gender equity to every educational program that is federally funded.

The guest speaker is professional golfer Pearl Sinn-Bonanni.

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