SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week

Two of our NorCal/SoCal players of the week are A.J. George from Hoover of Fresno and Emma Svoboda of La Quinta. Photos: @Pdouble_33 / & @GirlsLqhs /

We’re getting close the end of this feature for this pandemic-affected and shortened season, partly because the two largest Northern California sections (North Coast and Sac-Joaquin) are almost finished, and we don’t like the feature coming out either during or after a possible season-ending playoff game for someone we choose is played. For this week, our journey for honoring hoopers takes us back to “The Valley” as locals call the CIF Central Section, and the historic town of Benicia for our NorCal honorees. It’s then to East San Diego County and the Coachella Valley for the Southern California award winners.

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Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate anyone, email We are picking the winners on Monday nights for the rest of the spring season.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Girls Basketball Player of the Week

Emma Svoboda
(La Quinta) Sr.

The Coachella Valley is our destination in search of the Southern California Player of the Week, and we land in La Quinta, around 10 miles southeast of Palm Springs on Highway 111. There we find an Oklahoma-bound 6-foot-3 senior post that came up huge just when the Blackhawks needed her most.

Last week, in a come-for-behind 55-54 win over visiting Torrance, Svoboda finished with a huge double-double 32 points and 20 rebounds to lead No. 1 seed La Quinta into the third round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs.

It was the fourth time this season Emma has gone for 30 or more points with a season high of 33 points in a season-opening 42-39 victory over visiting Beaumont.

So far, in a 12-3 season that has La Quinta hosting the Tuesday night Irvine Portola at Lancaster winner on Wednesday, Svoboda is averaging a double-double 23.6 points and 16.9 rebounds, plus 3.4 assists and blocks, and 1.8 steals per game.

According to the Desert Sun newspaper, Svoboda will be moving into her dormitory at Oklahoma on June 11, and that means if La Quinta advances to the CIF Southern Regional playoffs, the Blackhawks are going to be without Emma, but the good news for Blackhawks’ faithful is if Svoboda can lead La Quinta into the 3AA title game, it will be on June 10, the day before she leaves for Norman.

We’re just glad we were able to give her this salute before her outstanding career in the desert has come to an end.

Joe Avalos lets one fly for Valhalla with the ball about to correctly leave from his fingertips. Photo:

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Boys Basketball Player of the Week

Joe Avalos
(Valhalla, El Cajon) Sr.

As mentioned in the preview, we try not to choose players who are playing on the night the feature runs but we’re taking a chance on landing in what is called the East County portion of the CIF San Diego Section since top-seeded Valhalla was be a huge favorite Tuesday night in its Division III playoff opener when the 16-4 Norsemen take on visiting San Diego Morse.

Last week, Avalos, a 6-foot-2 senior who can play on the perimeter or down low, came up big in the final game of the regular season, and the Norsemen needed all his production after he finished with 32 points including eight 3-pointers in a 63-62 victory over West Hills of neighboring Santee.

It was the fourth time Joe has gone for 30 or more points in a game with a high-water mark of 33 points in an early season 71-49 win over Mount Miguel of nearby Spring Valley.

Heading into the Morse game, Avalos was averaging 20.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and although 16-4 Valhalla has only played 20 games Avalos has made 79 three-pointers.

Peyton Holcomb is one of those players who fills up the stat sheet in multiple categories. Photo: Benicia Girls Basketball.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Girls Basketball Player of the Week

Peyton Holcomb
(Benicia) Soph.

One of the things we like to do in the Player of the Week features is to have fun rhyming the players names, or give a geography or history lesson, and for this week’s Northern California award winner we cover all the bases.

To honor Holcomb, we are welcomed to Benicia, a city next door to Vallejo on the shores of the Carquinez Strait, where the Delta formed by the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers meets San Francisco Bay – and last but not least we visit a school a little over a mile away from the historic red brick building that served as California’s third capitol building from 1853 to 1854 when Benicia was the state capital before it was moved to Sacramento.

Another thing we like to do in this feature is track records for the Cal-Hi Sports Online Record Book as well as uncover budding stars and diamonds in the rough.

In Holcomb, we have a blossoming sophomore star who was by far and away the leading scorer for the Panthers in a pandemic-shortened 9-2 season.

Last week was just like another day at the office, or shall we say the classroom, for Peyton. Her top effort was 21 points (three 3-pointers), nine rebounds, four assists and eight steals in a 54-50 victory over Berean Christian of Walnut Creek that avenged a 60-57 loss where she had a season-high 27 points. Holcomb started the week with 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and five steals in a 48-39 win over Vallejo, and she ended last week with a double-double 12 points and 12 rebounds with seven assists and three steals in a 72-36 win over Concord.

Holcomb finishes the season with averages of 17.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.7 steals per game. A player to watch for next season? You bet.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Boys Basketball Player of the Week

A.J. George
(Hoover, Fresno) Sr.

When we choose a Northern California Player of the week from the CIF Central Section, we almost always remind readers that for all our Player of the Week features in all sports, boys and girls, “The Valley,” as locals call the Central Section, is considered part of Northern California.

For our boys honoree this week, we land smack dab in the middle of The Valley in Fresno, and at a school that’s a stone’s throw away from Fresno State University. At Hoover, we find a Long Beach State-bound 6-foot-6 senior wing who more than once this season has had Patriots’ fans thinking “don’t worry A.J. is on the way.”

Last week, in a 63-28 victory over visiting crosstown North Yosemite League rival Fresno High, George gored the Warriors after burning the nets for 36 points, including 5 of 6 on 3-pointers. George came back later in the week with a team-high 17 points in a more balanced 57-35 victory at Fresno.

The 36-point performance is the third time A.J. has gone for 30 or more in a game, but in a bit of a twist it’s the first time Hoover has won the game. George had 34 points in a loss to crosstown San Joaquin Memorial, and in a 96-77 loss to Central (Fresno), he went for a school record 49 points, including 8 of 13 from outside the arc. The previous school record was set at 47 points nearly 50 years ago by Tom Laub, who attended the next game and was able to pose for a photo with A.J.

So far, in a 15-5 season heading into a CIFCS Division 3 playoff opener on Friday where the No. 2 seed hosts Tulare Western of Tulare, George is averaging 21.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and steals, and 1.5 blocks per game. He’s also made 26 three-pointers.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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