Two three-year stars were named the top basketball players in the South Bay and Palos Verdes swept the area's coaching honors at the Los Angeles Times High School Basketball Awards on Sunday in the Anaheim Hilton.
David Whitmore of St. Bernard and Andrea Kabwasa of Hawthorne, both longtime fixtures on the local high school scene, were named South Bay players of the year.
John Mihaljevich of Palos Verdes, dean of South Bay coaches, and Wendell Yoshida, who may be building his own powerhouse with the girls program, were honored as boys and girls coaches of the year.
Whitmore, the Vikings' high-flying 6-4 swing man, has been astonishing South Bay fans with his leaping ability since he was a sophomore. Now a polished player who can handle the ball and pass as well as score, Whitmore averaged 22 points, 4 assists and 6 rebounds for a St. Bernard team that was younger and less effective than in the past.
Whitmore played with injuries for much of the season and his value was never more evident than in his absence. In games he missed, St. Bernard lost to the Angelus League's last-place teams. With Whitmore in the lineup, St. Bernard played competitive games against state champion Mater Dei. In his final game, playing on a gimpy knee, Whitmore scored 31 points.
Whitmore was named the outstanding player in the Angelus League and was a CIF 5-A first-team choice. Whitmore signed before the season with Georgia Tech and is part of what is being called one of the nation's top group of recruits.
The 5-9 Kabwasa, who joined her older sister Celine in the Hawthorne lineup as a sophomore, was the South Bay's most complete female player, averaging 20.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists while showing great versatility.
"She can and has played nearly every position for us offensively and defensively," Hawthorne Coach John Wheeler said. "Her basketball talents are only overshadowed by her qualities as a person--she is extremely hard working and cooperative, a true leader."
Kabwasa finished her high school career on a high note, averaging 29.3 points and shooting 65% in her final four games, including a 29-point, 18-rebound effort in the playoffs against 4-A finalist Buena. Kabwasa was named the Ocean League co-most valuable player for the second straight season and was on the all-CIF 4-A first team the last two years. She signed before the season with New Mexico State.
Mihaljevich, the 20-year veteran of Palos Verdes who has had some of the South Bay's finest teams since the late 1960s, took a small, modestly talented junior-dominated team to CIF 3-A semifinals, where the Sea Kings lost in the final seconds to eventual champion Saugus. After that game, Mihaljevich, drenched with sweat from the coaching effort, proudly spoke of what his team had accomplished.
The Sea Kings lost their tallest player to injury before the season and lost senior starter Justin Marsh just before the playoffs. But playing three juniors, and with only one starter as tall as 6-4, the team posted 21 victories--including the only one this season by another South Bay team over rival Rolling Hills. If it wasn't one of his most talented teams, it was one of his best coached.
Yoshida, who is polishing 6-3 twin sophomores Heather and Heidi Burge for two more years of Bay League domination, guided his young team to a 20-6 season and a Bay League title. Yoshida, an excellent organizer, now has his team on a weight-training program and a heavy summer schedule and hopes to challenge Morningside for South Bay supremacy in the near future.
Whitmore was joined on the All-South Bay team by Doug Gehr and Cameron Terry of Rolling Hills, Richard Holt of Carson, Mike Lewis of Hawthorne, Tim Little of Morningside, James Moses of Serra, Mike Sestich of San Pedro, Eddie Shannon of Gardena and Scott Talanoa of El Segundo.
Kabwasa heads up the girls team that included Palos Verdes' Heather Burge and Suzie O'Grady, Tammy Booker of St. Mary's, Tiffany Carresi of Mary Star of the Sea, Felicia Dixon of St. Bernard, Carla Gladden, Shaunda Greene and Tia Thomas of Morningside and Areatha Vees of Redondo.