Millikan girls’ soccer coach Tino Nunez and St. Anthony boys’ basketball coach Allen Caveness have been building their programs up for the last few years, and this season they both made history.
A year after winning its first Moore League title since 1991, and first ever CIF-SS Division 1 playoff game, Millikan repeated as league champions for the first time since 1985-86. Nunez has changed the culture of the program by building from the back through a hard-nosed defensive midfield.
“This group is unfazed by things,” Nunez said of this year’s team. “The seniors like Samy (Sierra) and Azalia (Salazar) who have been there and done it before, they understand what needs to be done.”
Nunez is 97-41-35 overall in his seven years at Millikan. The Rams have been impressive in league play with a 62-9-17 local record — which means they got points in almost nine of every 10 matches. Millikan also finished second in league four consecutive years before their back-to-back titles.
“He expects a lot,” Sierra said of Nunez. “He has high expectations in a good way, he pushes us. His demeanor is positive in a way that makes us work harder.”
Caveness has done similarly impressive work taking the St. Anthony boys’ basketball program to the next level with elite talent. The Saints had to rebuild their roster after graduating a group that won six CIF-SS Division 1 playoff games in two years. Not only did Caveness lead the Saints to a 26-win season and a league title this year, they also reached the Open Division playoffs for the first time ever.
St. Anthony was in Divison 5AA when Caveness took over in 2014 and went 7-19 overall. The Saints have won 20 or more games in each of the last four seasons.
One of the biggest reasons Caveness has been able to get top talent like Frank Staine, Jadon Jones, Josh Belvin, Gorden Boykins, Marquise Nelloms and others to St. Anthony is because he’s not afraid to take on other top local teams.
“I love the local matchups because they’re good for the city,” Caveness said. “There is a lot of basketball pride and energy in Long Beach, and we want to play everyone so we can see what it takes to be the best. We want to play Poly.”
St. Anthony capitalized on that chance in December when the Saints beat Poly going away 99-64 in the semifinals of the Bosco Winter Classic. Jones, a Long Beach State signee, scored 38 points for the Saints.
“It means a lot to win, to get a win like this,” Jones said. “It shows that we deserve more respect than what we’ve gotten.”