Girls BB: More State Coaches of Year

Two of the four divisional honorees for the 2022-23 season are Danny Roussel from Marina of Huntington Beach (left) and Rexanne Simpton of Colfax. Photos: Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.


Congratulations to all of the 2022-23 Cal-Hi Sports State Coaches of the year for girls basketball. These are the ones for each of the five state divisions, although we do combine the Open and Division I. Three of the four earned nods for huge turnaround seasons from last year.

For more on this year’s overall State Coach of the Year announcement, CLICK HERE.
(Associate editor Harold Abend contributed to these honors.)

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Note: Open Division and Division I coaches are considered for the same category. For the other divisions, they are based on the same five divisions for this season in which teams were placed by the CIF for the Northern California & Southern California regional playoffs. We know that competitive equity placements have altered the overall strength of teams in the lower divisions, but we have years and years of choosing coaches from D1 through D5 and it’s just a lot easier to simply continue in the same format. The differences in competitive equity for the Open/D1 category will be seen on the all-state teams with much larger numbers of players from those teams gaining honors.

OPEN DIVISION/DIVISION I
Stan Delus (Etiwanda)

Our State Coach of the Year for 2023 also has to be listed as the honoree for the top division. Delus didn’t just attract attention from us. Many in the media, including Eric Sondheimer of the L.A. Times, praised his coaching after the Eagles won their two big games in the CIF Southern California Open Division playoffs. Both were on the road and both were against teams that Etiwanda had lost to in previous games — first at La Jolla Country Day and just a few days later at Sierra Canyon and superstar Juju Watkins. Mitty was ready for the Eagles in the state final, but the Monarchs couldn’t prevent a comeback victory.

Last 12 honorees: 2022 Stephen Pezzola (Richmond Salesian); 2021 Martin Woods (Corona Centennial); 2020 Vanessa Nygaard (Los Angeles Windward); 2019 Alicia Komaki (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2018 McKinsey Hadley (Gardena Serra); 2017 Craig Campbell (Fresno Clovis West); 2016 Torino Johnson (Palisades, Pacific Palisades); 2015 Kelli DiMuro (West Hills Chaminade); 2014 Craig Campbell (Fresno Clovis West); 2013 Anders Anderson (Etiwanda); 2012 Cheryl Draper (Berkeley); 2011 Gail Hale (Moreno Valley Canyon Springs); 2010 Marty Verdugo (Santa Monica).

Bo Corona is shown after he won his 500th game during 2018-19 season. Photo: Facebook.com.


DIVISION II
Bo Corona (Leuzinger, Lawndale)

This is a coach who has been honored before, which in naming him again is something we don’t usually do. There are exceptions, however, and for Coach Corona it’s that it was many years ago and this time it’s from a different school.

Corona is a longtime fixture in girls basketball the South Bay region of the CIF Southern Section. Leuzinger is the fourth school he’s been at, following stints at Westchester of Los Angeles, St. Mary’s Academy of Inglewood and St. Bernard of Playa del Rey. After the 2007 season at St. Mary’s Academy he was chosen State Coach of the Year for Division IV after the Belles ended 29-6.

This year’s team at Leuzinger not only racked up 30 wins, but reached the championship games of the CIFSS D2A playoffs and the CIF SoCal D2 playoffs. The Olympians fell short in both games, but were viewed as one of the more over-achieving squads in the state.

Corona also is the father of 2002 State Coach of the Year Lisa Cooper, who in the early 2000s helped Bishop Montgomery win multiple CIF D3 state titles.

Based on a 2019 post on Facebook when it was celebrated that Bo had won the 500th game of his coaching career and the 100th of his years at Leuzinger, we added all of the reported wins since then and have him at 579 career wins heading into the 2023-24 season. If no one at the school corrects us, that is the total we will use in adding Corona’s name onto the all-time state list.

When Corona took over at Leuzinger starting in the 2014 season, at the time the Olympians had not won a league game in six years and they were coming off of a 1-19 season in 2013.

The last D2 State Coach of the Year from the South Bay was Marcelo Enriquez from Redondo of Redondo Beach in 2000.

Last 13 honorees: 2022 Kerwin Walters (Newport Beach Sage Hill); 2021 Steve Picchi (Redwood City Sequoia); 2020 Rashaan Shehee (Bakersfield); 2019 Jose Herrera (Alhambra Mark Keppel); 2018 Roger DiCarlo (San Marcos); 2017 Allison Johnson (Fairfield Vanden); 2016 Mark Lehman (San Bernardino Cajon); 2015 Miguel Granillo (Tracy Kimball); 2014 Kelli DiMuro (Chaminade, West Hills); 2013 Michelle Massari (Sacramento); 2012 Leonard DeCoud (Riverside J.W. North); 2011 Wade Nakamura (San Jose Presentation); 2010 Tom Parrish (Hanford).

DIVISION III
Rexanne Simpton (Colfax)

It wasn’t a CIF state championship season, but Simpton deserves credit for her team winning 34 games in a 34-3 season. That’s a total that is enough for the all-time state record book for wins by a team during a season.

Colfax, a team with two CIF state titles in its history, won its 34th game by edging Caruthers, 53-52, to win the CIF NorCal D3 crown. The Falcons then lost 65-48 to Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga in the state final. Note: Los Osos head coach Dawnesha Buckner was selected for a divisional coaching honor before and not that long ago (2017).

Simpton and others in the Colfax community were worried their team from a school with an enrollment of under 600 would get placed even higher than D3 by the CIF after it won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D4 title. It easily could have been D2. Ironically, the Falcons ended up playing a Los Osos team from the same league as Open Division champ Etiwanda that probably should have been higher than D3.

It was just Simpton’s second year as the school’s head coach, but she was familiar with all of the players since the previous coach was her husband, Rich.

Two other factors besides the wins were especially impressive for Simpton’s girls. First, they have a combined GPA of more than 4.0. Second, they were supremely balanced in scoring. Four-year starting point guard Gabriella Biittner averaged 9.6 ppg, but three of her teammates were all in double-figures — senior Maycee Heimann (11.9), sophomore Kaia Diedrichs (11.1) and sophomore Juliette James (10.0).

Simpton is just the third D3 state coach of the year from the SJS since 1993 following Tom Gonsalves of Stockton St. Mary’s (2004) and John Langston from West Campus of Sacramento (2018). Colfax also has had a divisional state coach of the year before. That was for 1998 when Jim Ryan got the nod for D4.

Last 13 honorees: 2022 Dave Kavern (Porterville); 2021 Lynley Takaki (San Jose Lynbrook); 2020 Matt Dale (Menifee Paloma Valley); 2019 Orlando Gray (Oakland); 2018 John Langston (Sacramento West Campus); 2017 Rich Yoon (Rosary Academy, Fullerton); 2016 Kelly Sopak (Orinda Miramonte); 2015 LyRyan Russell (S.F. Sacred Heart Cathedral); 2014 Andrew Butcher (Santa Barbara); 2013 Malik McCord (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2012 Malik McCord (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2011 Tom Howard (Orange Lutheran); 2010 Tony Scott (Inglewood).

Head coach Leonard Dominguez is shown with two of his assistants. Photo: cshm.org.


DIVISION IV
Leonard Dominguez (Cantwell-Sacred Heart, Montebello)

This division created some challenges since D4 state champion head coach Ryan Coleman of Shalhevet (just last year), D4 runner-up head coach Mike Fulton and D4 NorCal finalist head coach John Paye have all been selected before. The one we settled on was Dominguez, whose team at Cantwell-Sacred Heart lost by a respectable margin of 56-49 to Shalhevet in the second round of the SoCal playoffs.

Dominguez also already has a coaching honor. He was recently chosen as the Whittier Daily News Coach of the Year where it was cited that he guided a remarkable turnaround from a 9-14 season from 2022. The Cardinals were 19-10 this season. They qualified for the state playoffs by reaching the semifinals of the CIFSS D3A playoffs, which included an upset of second seed Diamond Bar. Their loss in those playoffs was to powerhouse Rancho Christian of Temecula, which went on to win the title and was in the D2 regional/state playoffs.

One also has to give Coach Dominguez some props for always having competitive teams and for sticking it out as a head coach. In his first season (2016-17) with the Cardinals, reports indicate he missed some games after suffering a stroke.

Looking through the all-time list, it also looks like Leonard is the first D4 State Coach of the Year ever from the San Gabriel Valley.

Last 13 honorees: 2022 Trey Mitchell (Ross Branson); 2021 Jerry Taylor (Fresno Roosevelt); 2020 Rick Berry (Cloverdale); 2019 LeRoy Hurt (Oakland Tech); 2018 Buck Matthews (Portola Valley Woodside Priory); 2017 Dawnesha Buckner (Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos); 2016 Stephen Pezzola (Richmond Salesian); 2015 David Esparza (Anaheim Fairmont Prep); 2014 Jim Hart (Scotts Valley); 2013 McKinsey Hadley (Gardena Serra); 2012 Terri Bamford (La Jolla Country Day); 2011 Steve Smith (Los Angeles Windward); 2010 Melissa Hearlihy (North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake).

DIVISION V
Danny Roussel (Marina, Huntington Beach)

Keeping in line with the turnaround theme of D4 honoree Leonard Dominguez, Roussel did something perhaps even more impressive at Marina. He’s not a rookie coach (it was in fact his fifth season) but he made a commitment to the school, the players followed suit and the Vikings went from 6-20 from the previous season to playing in the D5 state championship.

Although Bret Harte of Altaville was too tough to tame in that state final, Marina (21-16) first turned heads with a 49-33 victory over top seed Gahr of Cerritos in the second round of the CIF SoCal playoffs. The Vikings then won at home over South Hills of Covina and won on the road at San Pedro to earn their trip to Sacramento.

According to a feature story on the team in the Orange County Register prior to the state championships, Roussel is a three-time cancer survivor. The commitment he made was to leave a job in the medical industry for a permanent substitute teaching role at Marina. That enabled him to be on campus and closer to his players than previously.

This year’s team at Marina also defeated league rival Huntington Beach for the first time since 2006.

D5 isn’t a category with very many Orange County schools historically, but this is the first time there is a D5 coach of the year from the county being added to the all-time list.

Roussel was asked after the loss to Bret Harte that as a cancer survivor why he keeps coaching. “I love the game of basketball, I love what it teaches these young ladies. Watching these girls bond with each other – it’s why I do what I do.”

Last 12 honorees: 2022 Ryan Coleman (Los Angeles Shalhevet); 2021 Joseph Murray (San Marcos St. Joseph Academy); 2020 Jennifer Keithley (Watsonville Monte Vista Christian); 2019 Anna Almeida (Caruthers); 2018 Amy Bush (Hanford Sierra Pacific); 2017 Richard Masson (San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep); 2016 Jon Sampang (Sun Valley Village Christian); 2015 Donovan Blythe (East Palo Alto Eastside Prep); 2014 Doc Scheppler (Los Altos Hills Pinewood); 2013 Alicia Komaki (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2012 Que Ngo (Stockton Brookside Christian); 2011 Julianne Berry (Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame); 2010 Doc Scheppler (Los Altos Hills Pinewood).

Note: Coaches can be listed twice in a division because the second time they were honored as the overall State Coach of the Year.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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