Column

Another record-setting, highlight-filled high school sports season comes to a close

Eric Sondheimer
Contact ReporterVarsity Times Insider

The 2016-17 high school sports season has officially come to a close, and the achievements and lessons learned will be hard to duplicate.

Birmingham became the first City Section school in 54 years to win upper division championships in basketball and baseball. Fremont was the last in 1963.

Junior infielder Brice Turang of Corona Santiago struck out once in 101 at-bats. He’s the new Rod Carew. Norco pitcher Garrett Irvin can one day tell his grandchildren he did the honor.

Tara Davis of Agoura took over as track and field’s Wonder Woman, winning the long jump, triple jump and 100 hurdles at the state championships. She set a state record in the long jump at 22 feet 1 inch and ran the fastest hurdles time (12.83 seconds) ever by a girl under all conditions.

In basketball, there was 15-year-old sophomore LaMelo Ball of Chino Hills scoring 92 points in a single game and becoming a social media icon with 117,000 Twitter followers and 1.8 million Instagram followers. And unlike his father, LaVar, he never said he could beat Michael Jordan in a game of one on one.

Torrance Bishop Montgomery proved that a team that stayed together could succeed in the era of basketball players selecting schools based on shoes, friendships and scholarship promises. The trio of Ethan Thompson, David Singleton and Jordan Schakel helped the Knights pull off the improbable — victories over nationally ranked Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, Santa Ana Mater Dei (twice) and Chino Hills en route to winning the state Open Division championship.

Feb. 24, 2017 will be long remembered as the sporting event of the year by the 10,258 who showed up to the Galen Center for the sold-out basketball doubleheader matching Sierra Canyon against Bishop Montgomery and Mater Dei against Chino Hills. It was more entertaining than any NBA regular season game and had more future NBA players on the court than some college games.

In football, Mater Dei looked unstoppable behind a sophomore quarterback, J.T. Daniels, who was so accurate that he completed 74% of his passes. Except when the time came to win the biggest game, it was Bellflower St. John Bosco taking the Southern Section Division 1 championship.

It was a football season in which the best player turned out to be an offensive lineman, Wyatt Davis of St. John Bosco. He stole the spotlight from quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and sackers. You sat in the bleachers or the press box and watched in awe as he used his 315-pound body to pummel people.

“He was pretty phenomenal,” his coach, Jason Negro said. Now he’s off to Ohio State, where he’ll represent California very well.

Jeff Stout of Yucaipa called it quits. For 41 years, he was the school’s baseball coach. He had 809 career wins. His teams won 19 league titles and three CIF titles, and 24 of his players went on to play professionally.

Dave White retired after 31 years as football coach at Huntington Beach Edison. The lawyers, doctors, teachers and good citizens he helped mold and the impact he made won’t be forgotten.

Most of all, this sports season will be a reminder that no matter what people say or think, anything can happen.

How else to explain Birmingham upsetting No. 1 Chatsworth in the City Division 1 baseball final after losing, 16-0, to the Chancellors a month earlier. And the star pitcher in the City final, Eddie Rosales, didn’t make it out of the first inning in that loss.

“Just because something happens one time doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again,” Birmingham Coach Matt Mowry said. “It comes down to believing in yourself and keep fighting. Even if you’re the underdog, and you’re not supposed to win, that’s people’s opinions. It’s not reality. Reality is you go out and play and whoever wins, wins.”

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: latsondheimer

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