Not even Cheryl and Reggie Miller could do what Candice and Alan Wiggins will have an opportunity to accomplish on Saturday as the sister-brother act tries to accomplish the feat of winning a state championship for either the same or different schools in the same year.
Has this happened before? For different schools, it doesn't look like it. For the same school, just two years ago, Nykia Peace and two of her brothers, Brandon and DeVaughn Peace, were on Div. III boys and girls state championship teams at Bishop Montgomery of Torrance.
Two years ago I sat in the Wiggins family home interviewing Candice and her mom, Angela, after Candice and her Torrey teammates had won their first Div V girls state championship. At the time, Candice was a 14-year-old freshman who had the presence of mind and heart to give her championship and sportsmanship medals to the mother of a popular La Jolla Country Day student, Kenner Michael, who was killed in an auto accident on the road traveling back to San Diego from the championships in Sacramento.
During the interview, I became aware, and continue to be, of Angela's intense desire to see that her children are given every opportunity to excel on the playing field and in the classroom. Raising her children alone, after the tragic death of her husband, Alan, a former Padre and Oriole major league baseball player, Angela felt the tears, and understood how hard the road would be to providing the best possible environment for her children's education.
So when I heard during the summer that her son, Alan, would be transferring from Poway to Horizon, it did not surprise me in the least. "It's about grades and academics," said Angela, when I talked to her about the reasons Alan transferred, shortly after Saturday's big win over Bakersfield Garces in the Southern California Div IV championship game. "Zack Jones (Horizon head coach and Vice Principal) has been very important, but I was the one who decided Alan would go to Horizon. With Candice, grades were never a question, but with Alan I knew he had it in him. He just wasn't blossoming."
At Horizon, not only have Alan's grades improved, but his basketball skills have gone through the roof. With the help of Jones, Alan has turned into one of the finest big men in high school basketball on the entire West Coast. The result is a scholarship to USF. Mark my words, his catch will go down as one of the biggest steals ever for USF (including my recently departed friend Phil Smith). His attending Horizon has also given Alan the opportunity to play against Hercules next Saturday, as Horizon tries to repeat as Div IV boys state champion.
Candice will try for a "three-peat" as La Jolla Country Day will face St. Mary's of Stockton in the Div IV girls championship game. "I am so excited for them both," said Angela, "I think I'll wear my Kenner Michael T-shirt in Sacramento. He's my man. I know he's up there watching out for us."
Division IV Boys Southern Regional Championship
Horizon 59, Garces (Bakersfield) 56
The Panthers showed 'once and for all' they definitely belong as one of the top three or four high school boys basketball teams in the state, and Jared Dudley showed why he is the finest all around player in the San Diego Section and one of the finest in all of California.
Horizon (31-1) took everything Garces could deliver and still turned back the Rams for the second year in a row. Defense, once again, was the key for Horizon against a team that had beaten its first two opponents in the regionals by scoring 105 and 118 points. respectively. Against the Panthers, the Rams were held to a season low 24 points in the first half and by game's end they were almost 30 below their season average of 85 points a game.
Horizon had its own troubles in the first half against Garces and its strong front line and quick backcourt. Robert Swift, Garces' 7-foot center (14 points and 10 rebounds) led an 8-0 run in the second quarter and kept the Panthers off the boards where the Rams had an 18-9 advantage at halftime. Senior point guard Kyle Shiloh (23 points and four steals) seemed to be everywhere, clogging the passing lanes and causing turnovers by Horizon's ballhandlers. The result was that even though Garces had its season low scoring total at halftime, the Rams actually led 24-18 after Horizon missed a lay-up just before the buzzer.
The second half was another story. Horizon came out intent on getting the ball down low to Dudley and after a 9-2 run, the Panthers took their first lead of the evening at 27-26. The remainder of the third quarter was nip and tuck, but by the end of the third quarter Horizon's Alan Wiggins was beginning to have a real effect on Swift and his ability to score easy baskets and rebound.
Still, when the fourth quarter began with Garces leading 43-38, the Rams immediately began a strategy of trying to get the ball deep inside to Swift against Wiggins. The strategy failed. Wiggins was up to the task and seemed to have a lot more left in his tank than Swift.
Time and again he forced Swift to alter shots and even blocked two in the quarter. For once, Wiggins and Dudley were not in foul trouble so their ability to turn up the heat on defense turned the game in their favor. Although Horizon had a terrible shooting night from the charity stripe (8 of 17), it was actually the free throw shooting of Garces (8 of 20) that was ultimately its undoing.
During a fourth quarter when Horizon played defense like a "whirling dervish" the Rams could only muster 4 of 13 from the line including 0 for 4 in the last two minutes of play. In fact, Garces did not even score in the final 2:44 after Swift had an uncontested dunk to put the Rams ahead 56-50.
First, at 1:54 remaining, Horizon senior Nick Johnson made the move of his lifetime with a 360 degree helicopter spin to score and get fouled. The score was 56-52 as he missed the free throw. Then after a defensive stop and two missed free throws by Garces, the Panther's got the ball down low to Dudley who put in a reverse lay-up to make it 56-54. After a defensive stop, the Panthers' Franklin Williams drained a long shot just inside the arc to tie the game at 56-56.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Horizon forced the ball into the hands of one of the bigger Garces players in the backcourt who then stepped out of bounds under intense pressure from Dudley and crew with 28 seconds remaining. Dudley was then fouled at 18.2 seconds left and made the front end of the one on one. On the second free throw, Dudley missed, but Wiggins went over Swift for the rebound and got it back to Dudley who was hammered with 11.8 seconds on the clock. Dudley then calmly converted both ends of the one on one for the final margin of victory.
"We felt that if we could get the ball in Jared's hands, he would make the right decisions, said Jones, who added that he felt the Panthers' superior conditioning and a couple of Garces mistakes had been the difference. "We made some adjustments on defense down the stretch that caught them off guard and caused a couple of miscues."
That and the fact that Dudley (25 points, 8 rebounds , 4 assists and 3 steals) and Wiggins (16 points and 10 rebounds) totally outplayed the big Garces front line that went 7-0, 6-7 and 6-5.
Division IV Girls Southern Regional Championship
La Jolla Country Day 62, Marlborough (Los Angeles) 42
Sister Candice Wiggins' 31 points and 11 rebounds set the stage for brother Alan by leading the Torreys (27-3) past the Mustangs by a rather comfortable margin in the game immediately before the boys' final.
The stands were full of cheering Mustang fans, but the girls came out flat and against Country Day that is suicidal. It was 24-6 at the end of one and even though the Torreys were in a bit of an offensive lull themselves in the second quarter their defense simply smothered Marlborough. By the half it was 34-12 and seemingly over for the Mustangs.
The Mustangs may not be in the same class as the Torreys, but you don't get to a regional championship game by giving up. Marlborough came out in the second half and threw caution to the wind on defense and it worked...for a while. A small run turned into a 19-8 scoring advantage for the Mustangs as the offensive lull continued for Country Day, allowing Marlborough to close to 11 at 42-31 to end the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was much like the first as Country Day stabilized its offense early with La Toya Cunningham (11 points, 6 steals) hitting a couple of three-pointers while Candice made her free throws and Marissa Rivera (12 rebounds) and senior Ashley Rentz (6 rebounds and 4 assists) dished to Candice, cleaned the glass and boxed out Marlborough 6-3 freshman Abi Olajuwon (8 rebounds). Sophomore Emily Tay had a nice game for the Mustangs, going 6-of-7 from the charity stripe en route to 18 points.
"It's hard to stay 'up' all the time when you're up by that many...they're a good team...they get a rush," said Wiggins, explaining the late second and early third quarter offensive "blues" for the Torreys.
Those blues will be something coach Terri Bamford will want to see no part of next Saturday when the Torreys meet St. Mary's of Stockton for the Div IV state championship.
Asked if she had any regrets about not going north to meet the Rams in the West Coast Jamboree in December...and instead opting to play in the Brea tournament, Bamford said she had none.
"We don't know them that well, but they don't know us, our intensity, our depth," said Bamford.
They also don't have the girl with a heart as big as the Grand Canyon. Candice Wiggins is on a mission, and she's playing like a woman possessed less than two months after getting her knee scoped...unbelievable!
Division III Girls Southern Regional Championship
Bishop Montgomery 60, Mission Bay 41
Mission Bay (23-3) was able to stay with three-time defending Div III girls state champion Bishop Montgomery for a short while, but the Knights had just too much firepower for the young Bucs to handle.
Mission Bay fell behind 10-1, then used all its adrenalin early to catch and pass Bishop Montgomery for a short time before trailing 14-12 after a quarter. From there it was all Noelle Quinn. The 6-0 senior headed to UCLA -- and she can play volleyball as well as the round ball -- looks every bit the player the Bruins have been looking for since Natalie Williams graduated a while ago. She is big, strong, and quick as a cat.
Time and again Quinn stepped into the passing lane to snatch the ball from the Bucs and take it all the way to the bucket. The result was a 60-41 win that earns Bishop Montgomery and its CIF honored coach, Lisa Cooper, a chance to win four state titles in a row this weekend.
Quinn finished a dominating performance with 31 points, 16 rebounds, 6 steals and three blocked shots while connecting on both her attempts form outside the arc. Quite a performance from the soft spoken Quinn who said "it was a great feeling to get back to Sacramento," and that she was "glad for some of my younger teammates who will get a chance to experience the state."
Amber Sprague had people on press row remarking about how well she ran the floor and glided in motion. The 6-4 junior led Mission Bay with 15 points and nine rebounds. The lessons she learned from playing against Quinn and others she faced this season and in the regionals will be invaluable for the future as Mission Bay advanced as far as it could have ever imagined this year. Amanda Rego was hobbled with a bad knee, but would not back off. The two-handed dribbling point guard went the entire game and contributed seven assists and three steals.
Special thanks to my friend Dave Jackson of the West Coast Jamboree and the AAU for traveling from Northern California for the third year in a row...at his own expense...to assist in my coverage of the Southern Regionals. Good thing he showed. Even though we were not in an official capacity in helping the CIF this year, we were pressed into action when the stat crew hired by the CIF to cover the games at Cal State Fullerton did not show up. Dave was a great spotter and we were pleased to be able to help our fellow journalists with stats and info from the games.
Editor's Note: Harold Abend is in his second year as the San Diego Section correspondent for Cal-Hi Sports. He also has assisted the CIF state office in media relations and communications for several years.