East County players stand out on All-CIF winter sports teams

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The San Diego Section released its winter sports all-section teams March 28, followed by a winter sports recognition gala broadcast from the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum April 2 on KUSI-TV.

It was a star-studded 2014-15 winter sports campaign for several prominent East County student-athletes and teams, most notable among them Foothills Christian High School junior T.J. Leaf, who was named the San Diego Section boys’ basketball Player of the Year.

The San Diego Section released its winter sports all-section teams March 28, followed by a winter sports recognition gala broadcast from the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum April 2 on KUSI-TV.

It was a star-studded 2014-15 winter sports campaign for several prominent East County student-athletes and teams, most notable among them Foothills Christian High School junior T.J. Leaf, who was named the San Diego Section boys’ basketball Player of the Year.

While Leaf accepted the individual acknowledgement on the telecast, he was quick to frame his response in the team concept, making note to set a goal next season for the Knights to advance farther in the state regional playoffs.

In fact, Leaf set a goal of winning a state championship title. 

With Foothills Christian not losing one single player to graduation and looking to sport at least six seniors on next season’s roster, the Knights could well be in store for a fairy tale season.

This one certainly had its overload of highlights.

Foothills Christian finished the season 24-8, reeling off 12 consecutive victories before ending their season with a 56-55 loss to third-seeded Etiwanda in the opening round of the Southern California regional playoffs on March 13.

Included in that late season run was a dominating 83-41 victory against the Mira Mesa Marauders in the San Diego Section Division II championship game March 7 at the University of San Diego.

The Knights, top-seeded in the division, walloped fourth-seeded Kearny, 84-44, in the semifinals. The Knights tipped off the playoffs with a 77-37 opening round win over 16th-seeded Patrick Henry and followed that up with a 74-52 win over ninth-seeded Bishop’s in the quarterfinals. 

The 6-foot-10 Leaf poured in 33 points in the section final, wowing the crowd with several acrobatic slam-dunks. He made a statement by scoring 43 points and grabbing 25 rebounds in the semifinal win over Kearny.

Leaf had 33 points in the regional loss to Etiwanda. That game ended with the ball in Leaf’s possession, with defenders virtually mugging the Knights superstar. But no foul was called and Foothills Christian’s would-be march through the state regionals abruptly ended.

Leaf, who is bound for the University of Arizona, finished the 2014-15 prep hoops season averaging 27.4 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, 14.2 rebounds per game, 1.6 steals per game and 2.6 blocks per game.

The All-CIF team is inclusive of all six divisions within the section, including the Open Division. 

Joining Leaf on the All-CIF First Team was Grossmont junior Tommy Rutherford, the reigning Grossmont Hills League Player of the Year who averaged 24.4 points for the league champion Foothillers (22-5).

El Cajon Valley’s Marty Ellis was named the CIF Coach of the Year.  The Braves (25-7) captured this season’s Grossmont Valley League championship with an undefeated 10-0 record and went on to top the Valhalla Norsemen, 61-49, to claim the section’s Division III championship.

Girls basketball

Mount Miguel senior Zaria Branch (First Team) and Lady Matador senior Kamree Harrison both earned All-CIF recognition on the girls basketball all-section squad. Granite Hills senior Deajanae Harvey was another First Team pick.

Mount Miguel (20-13) came up short to Horizon Christian by a 66-59 score in the section’s Division I championship game.

Harrison had 16 points in the title game loss while Branch, the 2014-15 Grossmont Hills League Player of the Year, dropped in 25 points in a 74-69 semifinal win over Granite Hills.

Harvey, Branch and Harrison were all first-team all-league selections this season.

The championship game appearance was the Lady Matadors’ 12th under coach Robbie Sandoval.

Soccer

Steele Canyon had two players named to the all-section girls soccer team: seniors Brian Daoust (First Team) and Alyssa Campa (Second Team) while Granite Hills junior Richard Flores earned All-CIF Second Team honors on the boys side.

Steele Canyon (15-7-8) earned the No. 2 seed in the section’s Division I playoffs and defeated 10th-seeded San Pasqual (4-2 in the quarterfinals) and third-seeded Rancho Bernardo (2-1 in the semifinals) to meet eighth-seeded Rancho Buena Vista in the championship game March 7 at Mesa College.

The Lady Cougars ended their season with a 3-0 loss to the Lady Longhorns, who posted three upset wins in their championship playoff run, including a 3-0 win over top-seeded Del Norte in the quarterfinals.

Campa scored a goal in each of the playoff wins against San Pasqual and Rancho Bernardo while Daoust scored one goal against San Pasqual and collected two assists against Rancho Bernardo.

Girls wrestling

Steele Canyon recorded a runner-up finish at this year’s section championship meet and the Lady Cougars were well represented on the all-section team.

First Teamers included seniors Marissa Gutierrez, Clarissa Gutierrez, Angela Petschek and Linh Cook and junior Maria Valencia.

All won individual weight class championships.

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