Another classic year of competition made it hard to decide, but here are our nominations for the top high school moments of the year.
10. Millikan Diver Makes History
Millikan sophomore Jenna Sonnenberg made history this year, claiming the CIF Southern Section Division 2 diving championship at the Riverside Aquatic Complex.
Sonnenberg finished with a score of 514.30, easily besting second-place Katelynn Shaheen of Crescenta Valley, who finished with 490.90.
Three other Moore Leaguers finished in the top 12 as Poly’s Sydney Wren and Emma Robinett finished eighth and 12th. In the boys’ meet, Millikan freshman Taylor Schwarz finished ninth. Poly alum Deon Reid is the record-holder in the boys’ Division 2 diving competition with 677.15 points.
9. Small Ball Delivers For Poly, St. Anthony
Looking at Long Beach Poly and St. Anthony’s boys’ basketball teams this year before the season started, a casual fan might have thought they were headed for down years. Neither team featured a true big, with Poly starting its smallest five-player combination in at least 50 years, according to records.
Yet Poly went 23-9 and won another Moore League title, and made it to the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs, then the quarterfinals of the Division 1 state playoffs. St. Anthony went 28-4 and made the semifinals of the Division 3AA playoffs and the quarterfinals of the Division 3 state playoffs. The Jackrabbits and Saints proved that speed can kill and heart can outmeasure height.
8. Lakewood, Poly Volleyball Rivalry
Perhaps no sport in the Moore League is stronger than girls’ volleyball, where Lakewood and Long Beach Poly are routinely among the state’s best, turning out NCAA Division 1 talent while consistently making playoff runs.
This year was no different as Poly’s Kalyah Williams (Washington State) and Lakewood’s Destynie Viliamu (UC Irvine) signed D1 scholarships and the two teams combined for a 56-12 record and a pair of classic league battles that saw them split and share the league title for the second time in three years. No doubt this year’s showdowns will be among the most anticipated matches of the fall.
What a difference a Dream Team Player of the Year makes. Three weeks ago Lakewood girls volleyball lost to Moore League rival Long Beach Poly at home in four sets, with the reigning Dream Team POY Destynie Viliamu hobbled with a sprained ankle.
7. Historic Moore League Softball
Lakewood entered this year as the five-time defending Moore League champions, but the Lancers saw their 65-game league winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Wilson Bruins in April. Lakewood had won nine of the last 10 league titles. The Bruins went on to win their first since 2012.
“We don’t pay attention to that stuff,” Wilson senior Joette Vega said of the history. “We just treated it like any other game.”
Vega went the distance while scattering eight hits and a walk with three strikeouts. The four-year varsity starter held the heart of the Lakewood lineup to one hit and two walks.
“She’s a senior, she’s a gamer and she’s been in this situation before,” Wilson coach George Molina said. “She’s earned this. Today was four years coming and finally getting it done.”
Lakewood also lost to rival Millikan for the first time in five years, and Wilson won its first playoff game in six years.
6. Poly Football Wins Big In Playoffs
For one week, Long Beach Poly was flying high in the playoffs. After a few years of frustrations, the Jackrabbits made a big splash in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs this year, hanging 60 points on JSerra in a runaway 60-44 win that saw the Lions do their best to keep up with the high-octane Jackrabbits.
The next week, Poly fell 55-13 to eventual CIF, State and National champion Mater Dei. The Jackrabbits were one of the last eight Division 1 teams standing and the win almost certainly will keep them in the Division 1 field for 2018.
Long Beach Poly needed a decisive third quarter to take control of a wild playoff opener against JSerra, but 19 unanswered points helped them get past the Lions and into the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs with a 60-44 victory.
5. Wilson Baseball CIF Playoff Run
After six years of suffering the slings and arrows of the CIF playoffs, the Moore League sent a team back to the semifinals for the first time since Chase De Jong and Shane Watson led Wilson and Lakewood there, respectively, in 2011.
Wilson earned the feat by delivering one of the strangest quarterfinals wins Long Beach has ever seen. Ryan Pettway, Nick Endres and Aiden Alaniz combined to no-hit the Bellflower Buccaneers on the road late last month in a 4-2 victory. It is the fourth semifinals appearance for Wilson in the last 12 seasons.
“I’ve never coached a no-hitter where we’ve just barely won like that,” Wilson coach Andy Hall said. “I said we were going to win by one or lose by one — it’s a silly game, and weird things happen. I’m pleased for our guys, we grinded it out.”
4. Lakewood Wrestler Randy Gonzalez Jr. Third In Nation
Not only did Randy Gonzalez Jr. win a CIF-SS championship in his senior season, the Lakewood wrestler also finished third at 285 pounds at the CIF State meet. He then went on to place third in his weight class at the National High School Coaches Association National Events in March in Virginia.
Gonzalez Jr., who had lost in the CIF-SS finals as a sophomore and as a junior, pinned all five of his opponents at Carter High School in Rialto to win the championship. It is the fourth CIF title for the Gonzalez family. Gonzalez’s older brother, Zack, won last year. His coach and dad, Randy Sr., won back-to-back heavyweight titles in 1985-86.
“It feels really good because growing up all I heard about was my dad and brother’s success,” Gonzalez Jr. said. “I’m proud to be able to contribute to the legacy.”
3. Tyler Schafer Third CIF State Appearance
Wilson boys’ golf has been the best in Long Beach for years, and senior Tyler Schafer continued to make a case for being the best golfer to ever come out of the city. Schafer shot an even-par round at the CIF State Championship at the end of May to finished tied for fourth. He is the only Long Beach golfer to reach three consecutive CIF State tournaments, and his fourth place finish is the best in Long Beach history. He also finished fourth as a sophomore.
“It’s kind of a bummer it’s over because it’s been four years to remember,” Schafer said after playing his last high school tournament. “It’s been a great experience. I’ve had a lot of fun playing a lot of golf with my teammates.”
2. Long Beach Track Sprints To Gold
As always, the CIF Southern Section championships were a special day for Long Beach track athletes. Poly’s Ariyonna Augustine won golds in the 100 and 200 meter sprints and anchored Poly’s 4×100 to a win as well. Wilson sophomore sensation Rachel Glenn won a CIF-SS title in the high jump, and St. Anthony freshman Asjah Atkinson won the school’s first individual CIF-SS title.
The Poly girls were the Division 1 CIF-SS team runner-ups, and would go on to finish fourth at the CIF State meet.
1. Moore League Girls’ Water Polo CIF Championship Day
On Saturday, Feb. 24, the two best teams from Moore League girls’ water polo both played a CIF championship game at Woollett Aquatic Center in Irvine. Even though only one of them lifted the championship plaque at the end of the day, the back-to-back games for Long Beach Poly and Wilson will serve as a benchmark for future generations.
Wilson made its second CIF-SS Championship game appearance (1998) and got a complete team effort in a 6-5 win over Harvard Westlake in the Division 3 final. Junior captain Brooke Gruneisen scored a hat trick, and sophomore goalkeeper Camryn Krueger made her ninth and 10th saves of the game in the final seconds to clinch the victory.
“That game could’ve gone either way,” Wilson first-year coach Barry O’Dea said. “But I knew we would fight until the end. We play for our city. We’re Long Beach. I’m all fired up.”
In its first CIF-SS championship game appearance, Poly led 5-0 but saw Segerstrom claw away at that margin until the Jaguars eventually overcame the Jackrabbits in overtime, 9-8, of the Division 4 final.
Poly set a school record for most wins in a season (21) and is the first team to beat Wilson in regular season play, and the first to win a Moore League title.
“We did make history this year,” Poly captain Sydney Brightenburg said. “Nothing can take that from us, and it’s better than the alternative.”