The winter high school sports schedule that spans from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day has gradually turned into the most successful season for Long Beach high schools. Wilson girls’ water polo and soccer, Millikan boys’ soccer and wrestling and both Long Beach Poly basketball programs have all won CIF Southern Section championships since 2010, and they’re six of the 27 local high school teams looking to make more history in the postseason this month.
The biggest question mark coming into this season was whether or not Long Beach Poly and St. Anthony could avoid the private school-heavy Open Division. Fortunately, they did and both have winnable first-round games in Division 1 coming up. Poly got a surprising No. 5 seed in Division 1 after winning its 10th consecutive Moore League title, and received a bye as a result. The Jackrabbits won’t play until Tuesday, Feb. 12, when they host the first-round winner of a game between Windward and San Marcos.
St. Anthony is on other side of the Division 1 bracket and the Saints host Alemany on Friday night, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m..
“All I see is Alemany on Friday at 7,” St. Anthony coach Allen Caveness said. “Not trying to be corny or ‘Coach Speak,’ but it’s the truth.”
In Division 2A, Compton hosts Lynwood on Friday while Wilson travels to Diamond Bar. In Division 3AA, Millikan will be traveling to Santa Clarita.
The Poly girls’ squad also continued its local dominance with a 13th consecutive Moore League title— 19th in the last 20 years— earning the Jackrabbits a first-round bye. They open the Division 1 playoffs as a No. 3 seed on Saturday night against the wild card winner of Lynwood and Ribét Academy.
“I like where we are in Division 1,” Poly coach Carl Buggs said. “I like the bye because it gives us a chance to see Lynwood and Ribét. We’re looking forward to starting the playoffs.”
Poly clinched its league title last week with a thrilling 41-38 win over visiting Millikan. Senior Deja Williams carried the Jackrabbits to the finish line despite great efforts from Millikan’s Emily Newkirk and Allison Crawford.
The Rams start the Division 2AA playoffs on Thursday by hosting Norco. Millikan won its first-ever CIF championship in 2014.
“The bracket shapes up how we had thought it would,” Millikan coach Lorene Morgan said. “It’s not an easy road for us, we’ll just take it one game at a time.”
In Division 2A, Lakewood will travel to El Rancho for a first-round game on Thursday. Compton was the surprise of the basketball season after beating Wilson in a fourth-place tiebreaker 60-53, last week, to reach the playoffs. Shayna Sanders and Makaia Smith were key for Compton and they’ll need to be at the top of their games at Palm Desert in the Division 4AA bracket on Thursday.
Wilson picked a great time to put together one of its best Moore League seasons in school history. While the league struggled to find steady ground during a season of unexpected results, the Bruins posted an undefeated 9-0-3 record to win their first league title in 12 years.
“The boys bought in,” Wilson second-year coach C.J. Brewer said. “You can’t just win league. There’s things you have to do in the year of development to get to that point. The goal isn’t to win league, the goal is to achieve those cultural things. This team practiced as much as CIF would allow. They’ve put in a lot of work and that’s why they’re so excited about it.”
Wilson clinched the title on an 80th minute goal from defender Carlos Mota to beat Cabrillo, and two days later the senior capped the season with a win thanks to his header goal in the finale over Poly.
“Our team is full of fighters and I love my team,” Mota said. “[Brewer] made us into a great team with cross country training in the preseason. Everything he’s been doing has been working.”
The Bruins will host Katella on Thursday in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs.
Cabrillo was ranked No. 1 in Division 2 last week until that loss to Wilson and showed its top-ranked resolve by bouncing back with a regular season finale win 1-0 over visiting Millikan. The victory gives the Jaguars their best overall record, 18-2-4, since joining the league. Goalkeeper Yancy Monterola has 15 clean sheets this season and the Jaguars defense has allowed only 11 goals in 23 games, four in league play.
“I knew at the beginning of the season that this team had the potential to be one of the best teams we’ve ever had here,” Cabrillo coach Pay Noyes said. “Having said that, I want to score more goals. We create way too many chances to not have two or more goals per game.”
Cabrillo hosts El Rancho on Thursday in the first round of Division 2 playoffs, while Millikan has to travel to face Servite in Division 1. Poly is on the road at Santa Ana Valley in Division 2 and St. Anthony lost in the Division 6 wild card round on Tuesday.
Millikan had been one game away from a Moore League title in three of the last five years, but the Rams finally broke through this season to win their first outright league championship since 1985. They won a shared title in 1991 but clinched the title this season with a 1-1 draw against second-place Poly in the regular season finale last week.
“I can’t even put it into words,” said Millikan coach and alum Tino Nunez. “I’m a Ram, to do something like this at your school, it means so much.”
Nunez said all season that this team had a different edge to it and that proved to be what separated Millikan from the rest of the league. Center defender Emily Barham has been key to that increased intensity since transferring to Millikan last year.
“I tell my teammates before every game ‘You’re either going to work hard or I’m going to drag you off of this field!’” Barham said. “I haven’t had to drag a girl off yet. They know if they’re not working hard I will pull them off by their ponytail and they’ll sit their butts on the bench.”
Millikan starts the Division 1 playoffs at home tonight at 5 p.m. against La Mirada.
Wilson is also in Division 1 after finishing in third place and will travel to play at undefeated Los Alamitos Wednesday. In Division 2, Wednesday afternoon, Poly is hosting Palos Verdes and Lakewood is at Warren.
St. Anthony is the most impressive and surprising story of the girls’ soccer season. The Saints bounced back from a 3-16-1 season a year ago to win the Camino Real League with a 14-8-1 overall record and 7-1-0 league mark. The Saints are at Clark Field to host Schurr, Wednesday, in the first round of Division 6. Junior Isabella Aranda scored 26 goals for St. Anthony this season.
Girls’ Water Polo
Wilson reasserted its dominance this season by reclaiming the league title with a series of blowout wins thanks to an experienced squad of returners led by UCLA commit Brooke Gruneisen. Last season, the Bruins lost the league crown for the first time since 2017 after a loss to rival Poly but went on to win the first CIF championship in school history.
“We knew what we were capable of doing this year,” Wilson coach Barry O’Dea said. “That was one of our season goals, now we want to make a deep run into the playoffs having been moved up a division.”
Wilson won the Division 3 title last year and have been moved up to Division 2 this season where they’ll have to travel to La Canada today at 5 p.m. for the first round.
Poly also reached the CIF final last season, however, the Jackrabbits got a tough draw in Division 3 and lost at Esperanza in the wild-card round on Tuesday. Millikan, the league’s third-place team lost at Downey in the first round of Division 4 on Tuesday.
Six schools are sending wrestlers to the CIF Central Division individual finals at Palm Springs High on Saturday. Millikan will send the most representatives after winning seven of the 14 Moore League individual finals matches last week.
Millikan got wins from Diego Laverde (113), Trevor Thompson (120) Robert Pallares (138), Johnnie Grover (182), Daniel Padilla (152), Edwin Samayoa (220) and Santos Salas (285) all won league titles.
Wilson, which hosted the event, celebrated wins for Marcos Nottingham (145 pounds), Ryan Catbagan (106), Andrew Rendon (132) and Brett Dogwiewicz (195).
“It was a fun finals and a good mix,” Wilson coach Seth Wegter said. “Everyone was well represented and we had some good wrestling. It was a lot of fun.”
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