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Current, former Lancers rule top stories of year

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Current, former Lancers rule top stories of year

Scott Brooks was the Bulletin's top sports story of the year.

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POSTED December 31, 2009 10:55 p.m.

History was made. Dreams were realized. Others were crushed.

The first decade of the 21st century ended with a bang in the world of sports here in the Manteca area and for Manteca-area natives that have moved on to great things — one being Scott Brooks, the head coach of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

The East Union High legend tops the Bulletin’s top-10 stories of 2009 in Manteca and beyond. Brooks is the first of three Lancers to headline the list:

1. Scott Brooks: Born in French Camp, raised in Lathrop and idolized in Manteca, Brooks has made a career out of basketball.

The 1983 graduate of East Union played at Delta College, Texas Christian University and UC Irvine before playing 11 seasons in the NBA for seven different teams — including the Houston Rockets’ 1994 championship team.

Brooks began his coaching career as a player/assistant for the American Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Stars in 2000. He landed an assistant coaching position in the NBA with the Nuggets in 2003.

Brooks returned to his roots when he joined the Sacramento Kings coaching staff as an assistant for the 2006-07 season, then served under P.J. Carlesimo as an assistant for the Oklahoma City Thunder at the start of the 2007-08 campaign.

Carlesimo was fired early in the season, and Brooks took over as interim head coach on November 22, 2008. Young and talented, the Thunder finished 22-47 with Brooks as the head coach, but the team showed enough improvement under his watch that the interim tag was removed on April 15 before the final game of the season.

The Thunder was 17-14 going into its New Year’s Eve contest against the Utah Jazz.

2. Jordan Kron: East Union has several notable alumni such as the one above. Another is Gary Kron, the school’s all-time scoring leader in boys basketball and Jordan’s father.

While the young Kron is certainly making a name for himself as a freshman superstar on EU’s varsity basketball team, his big 2009 actually started on the baseball diamond.

Kron tried out for Team USA’s under-14 squad for the second year in a row. It’s a long and expensive process that starts with thousands of the nation’s best.

He earned a spot on the 18-team roster on Oct. 13 and left for Portoviejo, Ecuador two days later for the COPABE Pan-Am ‘A’ Championships.
Making the team was one thing. Contributing to its gold-medal finish was another.

He went 2-0 as a relief pitcher, logged the most innings on the staff with 7 2/3 and gave up no runs, no walks and five hits while striking out five. He was also 1 for 5 with a run and a steal on offense.

Kron especially shined in USA’s 5-3 come-from-behind win over Brazil in the semifinals, as he posted 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

3. Jacob Gomes: NASCAR unveiled its inaugural Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year award in September. And Manteca native Gomes went down in history as the first to ever get it.

The East Union junior won three features while earning 20 top-five finishes and 28 top 10s in the Western Late Model division at The New Stockton 99 Speedway, All-American Speedway in Roseville and Madera Speedway.

The 2009 national rookie of the year was recognized along with state rookie award winners at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet in Concord, N.C. on Nov. 13.

Gomes is preparing for the biggest race of his career: the Super Late Model division’s 100-lap feature event in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown on Jan. 29-30 at Irwindale, Fla.

4. Chelsea Gray: St. Mary’s High’s girls basketball team out of Stockton has had its share of star athletes go through the program over the years, but Manteca’s own Chelsea Gray may be the best of the bunch.

The Brock Elliot School graduate become just the fourth Mantecan to sign a scholarship to play for a major NCAA Division I university this decade, joining 2008 East Union graduate Erin Arevalo (Georgia softball), 2006 Manteca graduate Michael Turner (Arizona football) and 2006 Sierra graduate Bri Doty (Arizona State soccer).

In front of friends and family at St. Mary’s Nov. 13, Gray drew her signature on a national letter of intent to play for powerhouse Duke University. Her narrowed list of choices included Cal, Stanford and Maryland.

ESPN Hoopgurlz touts Gray as the fourth best overall player in the nation and No. 1 in California. Duke’s 2010 recruiting class is rated the best in the nation.

Gray averaged 20 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and five steals in leading St. Mary’s to its fifth California Interscholastic Federation state championship as a junior and was named to Sporting News’ 2009-10 Preseason All-American First Team.

5. East Union girls golf: The Lady Lancers of the links set a new standard of excellence for area athletics this past fall by winning their fourth straight Sac-Joaquin Section championship — the most ever in succession by a Manteca school in any sport.

East Union capped the Valley Oak League regular season undefeated for the third straight season and ran its unbeaten conference streak to 48 in dual-match play.

Jackie Ketner, the VOL’s Most Valuable Player and Bulletin’s 2009 All-Area Girls Golfer of the Year, led the Lancer at the section’s Division IV tournament with a 9-over-par 81 score for third place. Jillian Goulart also earned a medal, finishing tied for fifth (92) at Oakdale Golf and Country Club.

How East Union won the title was even more impressive, as it checked in with a team score of 485 — 32 strokes better than second-place El Dorado.

The season ended with the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, where Ketner carded a rock-solid 78 to lead East Union’s fifth-place score of 460.

East Union needed a top-three team finish to qualify for the California Interscholastic Federation/Northern California Golf Association Championships for the second straight season.

6. Sierra football: Sierra has had its fair share of success stories in other sports, most prominently baseball, cross country, track and field and girls soccer.

In the fall of 2009, the football team took its turn to bask in the spotlight. The Timberwolves won their first-ever Valley Oak League championship in their 15th varsity season, and did so in grand fashion.

A 17-7 loss to Sonora on the road kept Sierra out of the hunt for an outright title, but it earned a share by beating Oakdale 44-42 in Week 9. Anthony Hall highlighted the win with a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown and field goals from 45, 50 and 40 yards out — the last being the game-winner.

It was two-time defending champion Oakdale’s first VOL loss at home since 2000. Sierra went on to advance the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals, where it lost to eventual champ Del Campo. Sierra capped its greatest season at 11-2.

Running back Jarrod Daniels was the first Sierra player to be voted the VOL’s Most Valuable Player after breaking four program records — most single-season rushing yards (1,813), most single-season touchdowns (33), most single-game rushing yards (296) and career rushing yards (2,939) — and tying the single-game touchdown mark (five).

7.  Ripon/Ripon Christian volleyball: The yin-yang relationship of Ripon’s two high school volleyball teams continued this past fall.

Ripon, once again, swept its rival in three matches and win its fourth successive Trans Valley League championship – fifth and six years.

Ripon, once again, lost to Christian Brothers in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff finals, running its dubious section finals streak to four straight losses to the same club.
T

he Indians also had their season end on Christian Brothers’ campus for the second straight year, losing to the Falcons in the NorCal final.  They have dropped eight straight matches to Christian Brothers, including two in the preseason, since 2006.

Meanwhile, Ripon Christian continued its dominant run in Division V, where it met schools with similarly small enrollment numbers. Only this time it was unexpected.

With no returning starters from the previous year, RC, led by senior middle blocker Kelsey Tillema and junior blocker Michelle Terpstra, won its third consecutive section championship. The 10th-seeded Knights knocked off No. 1 Bradshaw Christian in three games for its section-leading 13th title.

8. Sierra girls soccer: The Timberwolves were a game away from capping arguably the best season of any prep sports team the area has seen.

Sierra went into its Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title match with a sparkling 26-0-2 record and was ranked sixth nationally by ESPN Rise and second by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and adidas.

Whitney of Rocklin spoiled Sierra’s dream finish with a 4-1 stunner.

Still, the season put together by the Timberwolves was phenomenal. They claimed their 10th title in 14 years in the always-tough Valley Oak League.

NSCAA/adidas All-American and San Francisco State freshman Nicole Vanni was third in the nation in scoring with 53 goals — a new Sierra High program record by a long shot. Her 106 career goals is also a new school record.

9. Justin and Randy Friend: Former East Union star pitcher Justin Friend, a 2004 grad, made a big move up the Oakland Athletics’ farm system in 2009.

Friend was drafted out of Oklahoma State in the 13th round (420th overall) in 2007.

He started just up the road from home in 2009 with the Single-A Stockton Ports and made a quick stop at the Double-A level with the Midland Rockhounds before finishing the season with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats.

Overall, Friend posted a 3.71 ERA with a 2-4 record and 78 strikeouts in 70.1 innings of relief.

His dad joined in on the fun on July 30. Randy Friend was able to catch many of his son’s games at Stockton’s Banner Island Ballpark, but on July 30 he was the 1-millionth fan to enter the yard.

He was greeted with a gift basket, two tickets to Las Vegas, an autographed baseball from the 2009 Ports team, CDs from Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson and more. Randy is a big A’s fan and has been watching Ports games for more than 10 years.

10. All-weather track at Sierra: The Manteca Unified Student Trust track meets have been staged at Sierra High, as have the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and Manteca Convention & Visitors Buereau’s Manteca Senior Games.

Sierra is also the host of the Tom Moore Relays, but that event has traditionally been run at Modesto Junior College because the dirt track at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium doesn’t provide an ideal surface to run on, especially during rainy days in early spring season.

Community members Sharon Amick and Don Widmer joined Sierra athletic director Greg Leland and track coach/campus teacher Anthony Chapman to form a grassroots campaign nearly three years ago and raised about $100,000 in donations and attained $45,840 more from the SHS Grant.

Manteca Unified School District’s school board approved the specifications for the $401,355 project on June 23.

The groundbreaking for the nine-lane, all-weather track began in Aug. 17 and should be ready for the spring season.

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