The Bee's Spring All-Stars: Girls Badminton Coach of the Year

The Fresno BeeJune 26, 2014 

Bene Azali of Buchanan High is The Bee's Girls Badminton Coach of the Year for 2014.

ANDY BOOGAARD — THE FRESNO BEE

GIRLS BADMINTON COACH OF THE YEAR: BENE AZALI

• School: Buchanan

• Smash: He impressed his peers -- and his boss -- by shuffling his deck expertly and beating previously unbeaten Clovis 11-10 for the Central Section title, the Bears' second straight. Buchanan went 0-9 in singles but 11-1 in doubles, where Azali loaded up. Buchanan won the championship despite not having a top-three finisher in singles or doubles in the section individual tournament a week earlier. That hasn't happened since badminton was introduced to the section's North Area in 2009.

• He said it: "Bene played the only lineup that could have won (against Clovis)." -- Buchanan athletic director James Gambrell.

• They cried, then celebrated: "Clovis was strong in singles, and I knew I couldn't beat them. So I stacked my doubles, and the strategy worked well. I got a lot of criticism from my players after I filled out the lineup: 'Why are you putting me in singles?' Some even cried. But, in the end, they were all happy." -- Azali.

The reporter can be reached at aboogaard@fresnobee.com or @beepreps on Twitter.

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