Rishonda Napier making instant impact

Keeping tabs on local athletes competing in college.

Rishonda Napier (Bellarmine-Jefferson High), freshman, guard, Southern Illinois women’s basketball): The former Guards star has been getting playing time out of the gate in her first season on the collegiate level.

Napier made an instant impact in her first college action Nov. 2, as the Salukis earned an 82-57 win over Central Methodist in an exhibition game at home. Napier poured in 20 points in the win. In addition to leading the team in scoring, Napier also dished out nine assists with just three turnovers and pulled down seven rebounds. She also led the team with four three-pointers on eight attempts.

“I think she is going to be a special player,” Southern Illinois Coach Missy Tiber said on the university’s website. “She has a good basketball mind and she is a good student, too. She's very smart. I think she is going to have a great career here with us.”

In an exhibition game Nov. 6 at home, Napier played well and helped Southern Illinois get past Missouri-St. Louis, 72-48. Napier tallied eight points and chipped in six assists in the win.

Napier tallied six points, four rebounds and two steals Tuesday in a 56-46 loss at home to Central Arkansas in the Salukis’ season-opener.

Kevin Hunter (Burbank High), junior, quarterback, Chapman University: The former Bulldog and Glendale Community College standout got the chance to shine late in the season when injuries decimated the Panthers’ quarterbacking corps.

Hunter played well Nov. 10 against California Lutheran University in a battle for the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship with an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs on the line. However, Cal Lutheran ran off 24-straight second-half points and secured a 38-28 win at Chapman.

Chapman finished the season 6-3 (5-2 in conference) and in third in the SCIAC, its best season since 2007.

Chapman led, 14-7, at halftime and, 21-14, at the 9:31 mark of the third quarter after junior wide receiver Robin Harris scored on a six-yard touchdown pass from Hunter. The junior quarterback completed 14 of 21 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

Hunter made his first start at the four-year level Nov. 3, leading Chapman past Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 34-14. He made the start after three other Panthers quarterbacks were sidelined with injuries. In the win, Hunter was 11 of 14 for 215 yards and three touchdowns, which came on hookups of 28, 74 and 22 yards. He also rushed for 31 yards in five carries.

On the season, Hunter played in three games, completing 27 of 39 passes (69%) for 414 yards and five touchdowns to no interceptions.

Western Nelson (Burroughs High) junior, Cal State San Marcos, men’s cross-country: Nelson helped the Cougars capture a conference championship Nov. 3.

In a highly anticipated rematch between two of the premier men's cross-country teams in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics, the fourth-ranked Cougars made a statement and avenged a prior defeat to second-ranked British Columbia to run away with the 2012 Assn. of Independent Institutions Championship. The Cougars ran to a score of 24 to British Columbia's 36, while Ashford and Jamestown tied for third with 107 points.

Three weeks prior in the Santa Clara Invitational, the Cougars fell to the Thunderbirds by a single point, even though they had the faster overall team time. On Nov. 3, however, San Marcos left little to doubt in either category, winning on points handily and recording a faster team time by a minute and 30 seconds.

Running together for much of the race in third and fourth places were two-time All-Americans Nelson and freshman Steven Ing. The pair finished in 25:07 and 25:15, respectively, to put the pressure on British Columbia.

Leading the way up front for San Marcos was two-time All-American Daniel Lyon, who navigated the course in 24 minutes 18 seconds. For Lyon, it was his second consecutive conference individual title, as he pulled away from British Columbia's Luc Bruchet over the second half of the 8-kilometer race to win by nine seconds. Fellow freshman Michael Hewitt (25:30) held off two challengers over the final lap around the track to effectively seal the victory for San Marcos.

Lyon, Nelson, Ing and Hewitt were each awarded first-team all-conference honors for their performances.

San Marcos has now won five titles since the creation of the conference in 2008. The reigning national runner-up, the Cougars will look to carry their momentum into the NAIA National Championships on Saturday in Fort Vancouver, Wash

Gor Kirakosyan (Burbank High) junior, midfielder, UC Irvine men’s soccer: The former Pacific League Player of the Year who spent two seasons at Pasadena City College, made an instant impact in his first year with the Anteaters.

He started 12 of UC Irvine’s matches and he finished second on the team with 12 points (four goals and four assists). He finished just ahead of another former Pacific League MVP, freshman Pavle Atanackovic of Crescenta Valley, who tallied 10 points (four goals and two assists). Cameron Iwasa led the team with 14 points (six goals and two assists).

UC Irvine ended its season Nov. 3 with a 1-0 victory over the 20th-ranked Big West South Division champion Cal State Northridge.

On the season, the Anteaters went 5-14-1 and had a 2-8 record in the Big West South Conference.

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