Kobe Bryant’s last Mamba Academy pupil shines at Sage Hill
Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Feb. 1. We are Carol Cormaci and Vince Nguyen bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter. Together we’ve aggregated the latest local news and events for you.
Sage Hill School’s girls’ basketball coach Kerwin Walters wants his players to have “swagger,” and freshman Amalia Holguin has just that.
As Los Angeles Times sportswriter Luca Evans writes, Holguin creates highlight-reel plays, rockets one-handed cross-court passes and cashes three-pointers with slingshot form.
And as a member of the Mamba Academy, Holguin is the last player to be coached by Kobe Bryant to reach high school, and she is carrying on his legacy off and on the court this season at the Newport Beach campus.
Thursday marked three years since Bryant and eight others were killed in the Jan. 26, 2020 helicopter crash, among them Holguin’s Mamba teammates Payton Chester, Alyssa Altobelli and Bryant’s daughter Gianna.
The last words of Holguin’s Twitter bio is a hashtag: “4the8” — dedicating the passengers on board the helicopter.
“I’m doing it for them,” Holguin told Evans.
According to Evans, Holguin came to Sage Hill because she was the last piece of “Bryant’s plan for an elite group of girls to play together through high school,” and, so far, that plan is panning out perfectly.
Lightning juniors Emily Eadie, Zoie Lamkin, Annabelle Spotts and Kat Righeimer have stuck together since the Mamba days and are now an integral part of the Sage Hill team, which boasts a 17-8 overall record, including 4-0 in Pacific Coast League play. Holguin, meanwhile, is averaging 15 points and 2.7 steals per game this season.
On Jan. 14, Holguin and the Lightning core put up a tough fight against Mater Dei in the Matt Denning Nike Hoops Classic, according to Daily Pilot reporter Andrew Turner. Holguin scored a game-high 22 points in a 62-50 loss to the Monarchs, a school the Holguins strongly considered before Amalia’s Mamba teammates lobbied for Sage Hill.
One of the Sage Hill freshman’s first experiences with the Mamba Academy was what Mamba trainer Alex Bazzell called “hell week,” comprising three-a-day workouts for a weekend.
It started at 6 a.m. with a variety of workouts such as yoga, weight training and a self-defense class — all part of Bryant’s way of drilling in his work ethic to the middle-school-aged girls.
The workout was meant to measure how great the Mamba girls wanted to be, and Holguin pushed. However, though she broke down from exhaustion, she didn’t want to stop. Bryant helped her up, made her laugh and canceled the rest of the weekend.
Initially, Bryant’s plan was to create multiple Mamba teams with different age groups and have Holguin play with the younger teams, but she fit right in with the older girls, and it stuck.
“[Kobe] gave me that confidence,” Holguin said.
Her Sage Hill coach, Walters, said, “By the end of her time in high school, she’ll be one of the best guards that’s ever stepped on the court.”
— The Laguna Beach City Council introduced an ordinance to prohibit the sale, distribution and public use of balloons last Tuesday. Project O, the Surfrider Foundation, Laguna Ocean Foundation and Laguna Canyon Foundation were among the environmental groups that pushed for an outright ban on all types of balloons. The ordinance will go into effect nine months after its second reading. Looking back on the implementation of the city’s earlier ban on single-use plastics, city staffers had requested a long grace period in hopes of achieving a greater level of compliance.
— Garden Grove Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen announced last Wednesday she will challenge U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel for California’s 45th Congressional District, which spans Los Angeles and Orange counties, and includes Fountain Valley. Nguyen, 31, a Democrat, said while she encompasses a good portion of the racial demographics that make up the district, she is “hyper-focused” on the issues — among them housing, education and healthcare.
— Brooke Kenerson, 22, is currently undergoing chemotherapy but has kept a positive attitude through it all. Friends and family have watched the 2018 Corona del Mar High graduate change into the “Platelet Princess,” or TPP for short, a fun nickname that she created with friends as she has shared every step of her journey on an Instagram page. “When 915 people follow you on Instagram and comment on your pictures, text you on the side and call you and visit you in the hospital … I didn’t know that many people cared about me,” she told Daily Pilot reporter Matt Szabo. Kenerson will continue her chemotherapy at Mount Sinai in New York.
— For the last 15 years, nonprofit Cell Dogs has connected unhoused canines in need of love and obedience training with incarcerated adults and youth tasked with preparing them for new lives and loving families. Aside from providing trainers with life and career lessons, the program lets participants experience the feeling of doing something good for one another. A Jan. 17 graduation was an emotional affair.
— Newport Harbor freshman Ryan Honary launched a start-up company called SensoRy AI in 2021 to provide solutions for environmental problems. During his trip to UNESCO’s Learning Planet Festival in Paris last week, he also challenged youth to come up with solutions to environmental challenges via his new Climate Solutions Society. “It’s focused on encouraging the youth to create solutions for environmental problems they care about rather than just talk about it,” Honary told our colleague Lilly Nguyen. The 15-year-old added he felt it was his and other youths’ responsibility to take care of the environment.
PUBLIC SAFETY & COURTS
— Xueyuan Zhang, 39, believed to be a transient, died of injuries he sustained after being struck by a vehicle while he was on foot on South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach during the early morning hours of Saturday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department stated. The driver stayed at the scene and cooperated with investigators, according to this report.
— The L.A. Times reported Tuesday that the body of Orange County public defender Elliot Blair, who died the night of Jan. 14 in Mexico under murky circumstances, has been returned to Southern California, where his family has ordered an independent autopsy, according to their attorney.
— The Costa Mesa Police Department’s Professional Standards Bureau has begun an investigation into a recent traffic stop on Bristol Street that was deemed by the motorist to be racial profiling, CMPD Chief Ron Lawrence announced Saturday. One of Abdullah Aden’s passengers recorded an escalating verbal argument between the police officer and Aden, which went viral on TikTok, ABC7 reported.
— A Dana Point man, 27-year-old Daniel Alex Hotte, suspected of spraying racist messages over a Costa Mesa mural celebrating Orange County Latinas last October was arrested Monday when he showed up for a court appearance related to another crime. Hotte was reportedly caught on camera near the artwork, at the corner of Baker Street and Killybrooke Lane, painting white supremacist phrases and gang symbols over images and poems intended to honor poderosas, or “strong women,” with personal and historic ties to Orange County.
— After leading Costa Mesa police on a low-speed pursuit, Oscar Mercado-Arriaga and Natalie Contreras were booked last week on suspicion of felony evasion and possessing fentanyl for sale after the chase ended in Newport Beach. CMPD reported the suspects tossed three bags containing 30,000 pills from the vehicle during the chase that started after an officer attempted to pull over a 2016 Ford Edge for failing to stop at a stop sign and making an unsafe turn in eastside Costa Mesa.
— A 28-year-old man was sentenced Tuesday for killing his cellmate while they were both awaiting trial for murder, according to a City News Service report. Brion Cairo Hyde was sentenced to 11 years in prison in that case. Hyde pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for prosecutors dismissing a murder charge. Hyde’s punishment for killing his cellmate will run alongside his sentence of 25 years to life for killing 38-year-old Alvario Riosin, his wife’s lover, in a 2016 ambush in San Juan Capistrano.
— Also from CNS: A Tustin High School student was stabbed in a fight at about 12:15 p.m. Tuesday on campus and taken to a hospital in unknown condition. One of the two boys involved in the fight was taken to a hospital, and the other boy was taken into custody, according to police.
LIFE & LEISURE
— Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession, Asian American food and beverages and a special show ahead of “World of Color” all mark Lunar New Year at Disney California Adventure. Live musical performances can also be found throughout the park, including Melody of China at the Paradise Garden Bandstand and Korean American a cappella group Vocal Seoul at the Sonoma Terrace, writes TimesOC reporter Sarah Mosqueda. The celebrations run through Feb. 15.
— The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach has added a well space and recreation area for its middle school students, featuring a variety of gaming tables as well as musical instruments. Seeking to address what club officials referred to as an “epidemic of loneliness,” the organization partnered with the nonprofit Design With Purpose to convert two of its upstairs rooms into a stimulating hangout for its teens. Club officials say the $40,000 conversion was largely funded by individual donors.
— Il Farro restaurant first opened near the Newport Pier on Jan. 29, 1993 and was remodeled last year. According to a story by our colleague Lilly Nguyen as they marked their 30th anniversary in business Sunday, the Maurici brothers decided to name their restaurant after the ancient grain that’s since been popularized in Mediterranean cuisine.
— A double-double and “animal style” fries are at your disposal at the new In-N-Out location in Huntington Beach. The new restaurant of the popular fast-food eatery opened last Thursday at 7902 Edinger Ave., across from Bella Terra mall. In-N-Out No. 387, which has about 80 employees, is the second location in Surf City and was formerly a Wells Fargo Bank. There is one drive-through lane, indoor seating for 54 guests and a covered patio with outdoor seating for 30 guests.
— The Huntington Beach Police Department’s annual “Fish with the Force” introduced fishing to nearly 40 fifth-grade students from St. Bonaventure Catholic School, even though most of them live just a few minutes away from the beach. Along with members of various local organizations, the HBPD taught students the basics of fishing, such as fish anatomy and casting. The event gives children a chance to get out of the classroom and from screens to enjoy the outdoors, angler and St. Bonaventure principal Mary Flock told Daily Pilot reporter Eric Licas.
— It was a shaky start for the Marina High cheerleading team at the CIF Southern Section Competitive Cheer Championships in Riverside, but the Vikings recovered and sealed their second straight competitive cheer title after winning the Division 4A crown. The Vikings finished second in the CIF State Regional Cheer Invitational at Mira Costa High over the weekend, behind three-time CIF Southern Section Division 4A champion Costa Mesa.
— The Edison girls’ basketball team held a moment of silence for the late Christina Mauser, who tragically passed away in the aforementioned helicopter crash. The Chargers went on to defeat Huntington Beach 56-32 and clinch at least a share of the Wave League title as the season winds down.
— UC Irvine women’s soccer player Jenika Davis is undergoing chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia last fall. Doctors say the freshman is responding well to treatments, but she needs a blood stem cell transplant to take down the disease. Her teammates are spearheading an effort to find a donor by partnering with Be The Match. To register for Be The Match, go here or text TeamJenika to 61474.
— Angels two-way All-Star Shohei Ohtani signed a new long-term endorsement deal with New Balance, saying goodbye to Asics after an eight-year partnership. Ohtani had been signed with the Japanese sportswear company since 2014 when he was in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. New Balance, which represents athletes such as Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, said it would work with Ohtani “on a variety of campaigns across the brand” starting with a limited-edition 574 clear that will launch for $120 this month.
— The nonprofit SoCal Museums has announced more than 30 area art, cultural heritage, film, natural history and science institutions will offer free general admission on Sunday, Feb. 5 during a “Museums-Free-for-All” event. Participating museums include: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Armory Center for the Arts, Bowers Museum, Holocaust Museum L.A., the Getty Center, La Brea Tar Pits & Museum, La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Laguna Art Museum, Long Beach Museum of Art, Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Museum of Latin American Art, Museum of Tolerance, USC Asia Pacific Museum, the Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum and others.
— Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach will hold a murder mystery dinner fundraiser on the night of Saturday, Feb. 11. The event will be held upstairs at the Assistance League of Huntington Beach, 8071 Slater Ave. Tickets for the night cost $95 per person. For more information, email email@example.com or visit the organization’s website.
— Award-winning author Sadeqa Johnson will discuss her new book “The House of Eve” during a book-signing event Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Donald Dungan Library in Costa Mesa. She will participate in a Q&A and sign copies. Books will be available for purchase at the event. For more details, call (949) 646-8845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Thank you for reading today’s newsletter. If you have a memory or story about Orange County, we would love to read and share it in this space. Please try to keep your submission to 100 words or less and include your name and current city of residence.
We appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C. (photos welcome!) or comments to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the latest on Orange County from Orange County.
Get our free TimesOC newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Daily Pilot.