Highland forfeits Golden League title

The Highland High School boys basketball team forfeited 10 total wins – five of them league wins – and gave up its share of this year’s Golden League championship as a result of playing an illegible student, Bulldogs head coach Jeff Smith said Friday.

Highland and Knight won a share of the Golden League title after the teams finished with identical 13-1 league records. As a result of Highland vacating the five league wins, the title will go solely to Knight.

Smith said the CIF issued ruling to the school late Thursday night that stated Highland incorrectly filed paperwork on one of its transfer players. The player moved to the Antelope Valley, which meant his paperwork was filed as a valid change of residence, Smith said.

But according to the CIF, the circumstances of the player’s transfer dictated that his paperwork be filed as a hardship.

“When the final statement came out, we were all pretty devastated,” Smith said. “It was one of those things where it hits you hard.”

Smith declined to name the player, but confirmed that he played 12 games with the team and transferred from Jordan High School in Long Beach.

Smith said he and other members of Highland’s administration still believes all the paperwork was filed correctly and no mistakes were made.

“It was just the letter of the law that changed one thing and deemed the student ineligible,” Smith said. “It’s something that we’ve never had to deal with in my 18 years (at Highland). But I guess after 18 years, you see pretty much everything.”

Highland’s league record now stands at 8-6, which is tied for third place with Quartz Hill. Lancaster moves to second place in the league.

Knight now holds a 14-0 record in the league.

Knight head coach Tom Hegre downplayed the situation with Highland, saying his team felt they deserved a league championship regardless of the circumstances. Highland forfeited its only win this season against rival Knight.

Hegre, however, said winning games by forfeit isn’t as meaningful as winning games on the court.

“Nobody wants to win games that way,” Hegre said.

Dennis Henderson, coordinator of the Golden League, did not immediately return phone calls for comment.


They refused to be benched


Two Mohave High School girls join boys basketball team after girls team cancelled due to playing a graduated girl in a game

The first day of basketball season started much like any other for Mojave High School.

The boys and girls teams had home games scheduled against Frazier Mountain, and both rosters were somewhat thin – the common malady small schools like Mojave often suffer.

Neither team came away with a victory that day, the first of December 2016, and each player and coach on both rosters went to sleep that night waiting for their next game in just a few days.

But that next game never came for the girls.

The day after their game against Frazier Mountain, Mojave’s athletic director, George Pulos, informed the team that the rest of its preseason games would be cancelled because an ineligible player suited up for the Mustangs the previous night. Then-girls coach Patricia Burdick gave the girl a jersey and allowed her to play after asking Frazier Mountain’s coach if her participating would be OK, multiple Mojave sources with knowledge of the situation said.

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Knight accomplishes mission

PALMDALE – One by one, each player and coach from the Knight High School boys basketball team took a pair of scissors and cut a piece of the net from one of the basketball hoops.

It’s a tradition reserved for champions, and on Thursday, the Hawks became just that, winning its sixth Golden League title since 2007 with its 74-39 home victory over Quartz Hill. Knight head coach Tom Hegre said it’s the first time the team has cut the net after its season.

“It was magicial,” Hawks senior Devon Martin said of how he felt when cutting his piece of the net. “I have no other word to describe it.”

Knight’s road to the 2016-17 title had some bumps in the road. Midway through the season, the Hawks dropped five straight non-league games in a tournament that included powerhouses Mater Dei and St. Bernard.

In its first GL affair in almost a month, Knight lost 71-60 to Highland on the road. Losing that game caused every player on Knight’s roster to look in the mirror.

Hegre then wrote the numbers 1 through 9 on the board in Knight’s team room, which sent a message to the team that it needed to take things one game at a time in order to sweep the next nine games on the schedule. The Hawks completed their mission in dominant fashion, winning their last nine games by an average margin of 34.7 points.

“For these guys to come back in the last nine games and run the table the way that they did, it was pretty sweet, but it was kind of special,” Hegre said. “So we wanted to do something special for our guys.”

That something special turned out to be the net-cutting ceremony. Hawks senior center Jude Ezechukwu said as he cut his portion of the net, that was the moment he realized he was a Golden League champion.

Martin led the Hawks in scoring on Thursday with 19 points, while Ezechukwu added 15. Knight held an 11-point lead at halftime, but attacked the basket more in the third quarter en route to a 48-31 lead going into the fourth.

Knight started the fourth quarter with four consecutive layups, and outscored the Rebels 26-8 to cruise to a victory.

Rebels senior shooting guard Albert Dummett scored a team-high 18 points and made three 3-pointers.

Highland won its game against Eastside on Thursday, finishing the season with a 13-l GL record. As a result, Knight and Highland will share the GL title this season. The two teams have shared the crown three times since 2008.

After the Hawks finished cutting down the net, players and coaches posed for photos with friends and family. Thursday also marked Knight’s final home game of the season, and the team’s four seniors were recognized before the game.

The Hawks will learn which team it will face in the CIF Southern Section playoffs on Sunday, when the brackets will be released. Martin said the team wants to win it all this year, and will have to focus on “every little thing that we have to” in order to accomplish that goal.

“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Martin said. “We have to stay focused, we have to stay locked in and stay humble most of all.”

Hegre made an all-encompassing remark to a fan after the game when discussing Knight’s looming playoff run.

“We’re not done yet,” Hegre said. “Just getting started.”

Knight freshman shoots lights out

PALMDALE – Tuesday’s tilt between Knight and Palmdale high schools had all the makings of an instant Golden League classic.

In the first league matchup of the season between the two teams, the final score was separated by only five points, and the Falcons had some motivation going into the game being just one game behind the Hawks in the standings.

But Knight had other ideas.

With run after run, the Hawks (14-10, 9-5 GL) pummelled the Falcons (13-11, 7-6 GL) 57-38 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score suggests.

“We just had a mental breakdown with each other, the team,” Palmdale head coach Selina Gonzales said. “It was just a mental breakdown.”

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Henderson sticks with Littlerock

The Littlerock High School football team will have a familiar face leading it next season.

Dennis Henderson, Littlerock’s athletic director, has agreed to return as head coach for the Lobos. Last season was his first year at the helm.

“The biggest key for us was stability of these kids and trying to get a coach that would be on campus,” Henderson said.

Stability will be Henderson’s main goal this season. He said he wants to find the right coach to lead the program in the coming years, and will only step down as head coach after he finds the right fit at that position.

Henderson said he hopes that individual will be someone on this year’s coaching staff.

“The biggest thing we’re trying to do is groom some coaches who will be on campus and they’re a great fit (and) they have the kids in mind as far as what’s going on,” Henderson said.

Henderson took on the head coaching duties last year because another coaching candidate had problems getting in paperwork on time, he said. He decided to give it another go this season because the other seven applicants either were not on campus or could not commit to multiple years as head coach, Henderson said.

“Usually when I’m interviewing coaches, I want those coaches to at least say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna give you four years, if not five,'” Henderson said. “It can’t be a revolving door. It has to be someone who wants to set some roots and stay at a place.”

The Lobos went 2-8 overall last season, and Henderson hopes to improve on that mark next season. Henderson said the team is already getting in work lifting weights and working on drops, coverages and passing.