Posted: Feb 29, 2012 4:22 PM by Andrew Masuda
Updated: Feb 29, 2012 10:36 PM
The Arroyo Grande boys basketball team is red-hot headed into Saturday's C.I.F.-Southern Section championship game.
"I'm so excited. It feels great. We've worked hard all year to get to this game and we've reached it. we've got to finish our goal," said senior center Brent VanderVeen. The goal is simple for the Eagles and that is win the program's first-ever C.I.F. title on Saturday.
Arroyo Grande plays Pasadena for the Division 3AAA championship in the Anaheim Convention Center. "It's just been a magical season and I would have never thought that we'd come this far and it's just amazing what we've accomplished," said senior guard Gunnar Gomez.
The Eagles have accomplished a lot this season. After starting out 7-8, AG is riding a 15 game winning streak and boasts a 22-8 mark. The team credits a big loss to Righetti in its league opener for serving as a rude wake up call. Players credit a thrilling overtime win against Atascadero for providing a boost in their morale and belief in each other. "Working from day one as a team we weren't as good as we wanted to be. We just kept working hard and working together and our team chemistry kept building up and now we're in a championship game," said junior guard Matt Willkomm.
He is one of five players who were also part of Arroyo Grande's CIF championship football team in the fall. They're trying to become the first school from the Central Coast to win a football and boys basketball title in the same school year. "I want it so bad. I used to dream of this when I was a little kid. And just getting a C.I.F. championship, I would love it getting another one after football," added Willkomm, who played safety on the football field.
"I would just be amazing. I didn't think it would happen and to get both of them that would be pretty awesome," said VanderVeen, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, who also was an All-CIF quarterback.
Pasadena is 24-6 and ranked 27th in the state according to MaxPreps and is the Division's number two seed. The Bulldogs have breezed through the playoffs, winning their four games by an average of more than 23 points per game, including a 81-67 semifinal win over Beverly Hills. The Bulldogs were led by 6-5 junior Brandon Jolley, who scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Pasadena lost in the finals in 2010, but won a championship in 2007.
The Eagles are not phased by that since they beat Righetti, which is ranked 28th in the state, and upset the division's top seed Damien and number four Palm Desert along the way.
"Our mojo is just amazing. Our team chemistry, on the floor and off the floor, is great. We all just love each other like a family and it's really something special to be a part of," said Gomez.
Saturday will mark the first C.I.F. championship game for the boys program since 1970, which AG lost to Wilson 45-41.
Tip off is set for 1pm in the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday.
With the AG boys and girls both playing in title games, Arroyo Grande could become the first school since St. Joseph in 1990 to win two basketball championships in the same year.
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