Part III: Coaches, Respect and a Wrap
A Multi-part series based on the Mater Dei vs. Chino Hills basketball game.
One of the indicators for me that this was not normal. Knowing Coach Gayr McKnight is a very giant present on the sidelines. He is passionate as well as animated at times. I believe even he had resigned himself to what was going on. I will always treasure the moment he quietly stepped over to the table, with less than 2 minutes in the first half and joked with it three of us reporters seated at the table on just how bad this was going.
Any other night Coach McKnight would be totally inflamed on the sidelines shouting at referees but not tonight. Tonight he knew that this was magic and there was not much of a chance he and his staff was going to be able to put together. There was something else transpired that night that was even more significant to the dismay of Monarch supporters(who BTW who conducted themselves with class and displayed good sportsmanship). Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you want to say it, that night was the first time in Coach McKnight’s 30-year career at Mater Dei had never been on the wrong of a running clock. This meant that in the fourth quarter of the game according to CIF rules, If a team is losing by more than 40 points the timekeeper is instructed to allow that clock to run out without stopping. I would’ve never guessed that I would see that happen in my lifetime nor I would believe that anyone else would have thought that would have ever happen. I need to clarify. This was not a case of a Mater Dei team not being prepared. It simply stated there is not a more capable staff in southern California. No Monarch team has ever been unprepared period!!! Again editorializing, I believe the night was just a gift. I had never seen anything like it before and may never see this again. I also have to believe that all who were present understood that it was magical as well.
I spoke a lot of Gary McKnight the Mater Dei coach and that is because I hold him in such high regards. Yes there was another coach on the floor that night. There was one coach who got to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Coach Steve Baik has been the head coach at Chino Hills for 6 years. Prior to that he was the assistant coach for 4 years under Don Grant. From 2010 to 2014 Coach Grant served as Coach Baik’s assistant. Why the switch? I would think the fact that Don Grant was Coach Baik’s High school coach and mentor at Arcadia probably had something to do with it. Coach Baik has been on a great roll in many areas of his life right now. Besides the fact that he is in the midst of the undefeated championship season. He recently added a beautiful baby boy to his homestead. With his two boys and beautiful wife in attendance he was able to enjoy what I would say without a doubt would be most high school coach’s hopes and dreams for any given game. To have his athletes perform at their best, to have five individuals excelling at the same time, to having his boys raise up and seize the opportunity to redeem themselves from frustrating loss at the hand of their opponents in each of the last two years. Knowing that you’re watching something so unique as three brothers perform seamlessly, while individually holding their own. That is not the only time three brothers started on one team. It’s not even the first time in this area. Ayala High School a few years ago was honored with triplets, the Ponce, who also play on the court at same time. Oddly enough one of the court side reporters was their sister Courtney Ponce. My guess that night would be even she would have to admit that this was nothing she had ever seen before.
I sat at the desk after the final buzzer. I watched the handshake just feet a front of me. I enjoyed watching the individual celebrations that broke out all over the floor. I noticed as Coach Baik had the opportunity to hug and kiss his wife was she held their new baby. I had to smile knowing how proud he must have felt for so many things at that moment. I watch as Principal Isabel Brenes and AD Garcia met with other faculty members to share smiles and handshakes of congratulations. I watched as many fans tried to make connection and show their excitement to the mother, father and grandparents of the Ball brothers as they stood from their seats on the front row of the stands. I saw reporters flustered as they gathered themselves and prepared to formulate thought and questions that they were going to have to ask the winning and losing coaches and players after such an amazing game. As for me I knew or felt that my role was not going be the one that was going to catch the best interview or ask the most insightful question. I knew that the team of media that had gathered to do that were far more capable than I. I did attempt an interview with Coach Baik but struggled with ability to capture the moment. I was both cameraman, soundman and interviewer. This on most nights is doable but not that night. On that night I was just happy to take it all in, now I am was able to share it with you.
Friday night was the single greatest athletic performance I’ve ever seen at any level. That is not to say that it was the greatest pro level game or a college level game but the single greatest game. Not that there’s better athletes or smarter athletes or even better prepared athletes, but I’ve never seen an entire team executing at such a level than what I saw Friday night. It was beyond 200% expectation of a performance level that would have been reasonable to expect. I want to say that I write this not as a Ball brothers fanatic. Because I’ll tell you that before Friday night I’m not sure that I was willing to totally embrace all aspects of their performance. But I will say it as of now I do not think that I’ll ever see anything like it again. I think that we will see their names nightly mentioned in the NBA games of the future.
All three brothers stand on their own as great players, not only as three brothers that play great together. Agree or disagree, like or dislike the persona of what has transpired at Chino Hill High School’s basketball program, you have to respect what it has become. For this reporter I personally respect the sacrifice that was made by many people to achieve this. Their mother and father and grandparents and the sacrifices they made to put them into programs necessary for them to reach their ultimate physical ability. Their mother, the educator, that provided the foundation to make sure that they were also academically able to achieve greatness. The fact that they are homegrown products and not a transfer from another area. They attended Townsend Jr. High. This says something about their integrity. I admire Chino Hills High’s administration who has the right school environment at there to manage the circus that has followed them during these years. That probably will be around for next few years.
Bringing this to an end there’s still so much I want to share. I hope that I might have inspired one of you who was not intending to go to the championship game on Saturday to purchase a ticket to sit among the fans at the Honda Center to enjoying the potential for what might happen that night. As a gift beyond that, the following game that night will be the Ayala Bulldogs taking on my alma mater, Edison Chargers. I would be very proud to see Ayala defeat the Chargers and capture its own Division 2AA championship. I think is likely to happen. Please, please, please for your sake go and see these kids play. There’ll be no better time to do it than this Saturday at the Honda Center.
That’s How I See It