It would be natural to highlight Donovan Mitchell’s bazooka-launched 16 kills, Taj Sangha’s 41 assists and Buchanan High’s repeated comebacks on a night the nation’s fifth-ranked team trailed in every set, only to sweep Sanger 3-0 for its third-straight Central Section boys volleyball title Friday night.
At Bears Nation, however, it’s much more than that.
This was the school’s fifth section top-division championship of the school year, and it’s standing on the threshold of four more – baseball, softball and boys/girls track and field.
430-118 Bears coach John Jay’s record in 16 seasons, including 10 Tri-River Athletic Conference championships and six section titles
Buchanan won a state title in wrestling, was nationally top-five ranked in that sport and boys soccer for most of the season, and continues to be in boys volleyball and baseball. In fact, the 28-1 baseball team is No. 1 in USA Today’s Super 25 Computer Rankings.
And, most astonishing of all, the Bears have had what is believed to be a section-record 30 athletes sign national letters of intent this school year.
All of which means Buchanan could very well be marching to a Cal-Hi Sports State Athletics School of the Year 10 years after it did just that.
“We think it’s an attainable goal,” school athletic director James Gambrell says. “We’re proud of that and we don’t back down from it. It’s a true testament, and, honestly, not just political speak, to our director of sports (head coaches), administration, kids and community; it takes them all. And it’s pretty impressive.
“We feel it’s important to be successful in every single sport, and in both genders. That’s clearly defined to every one of our coaches.
Regarding the number of athletes advancing on scholarships, he says: “That is an amazing number. And that’s one thing our Directors of Sport truly believe in. We use athletics as a conduit to higher education, and that doesn’t matter if it’s D-I, D-II, D-III or NAIA.”
Mitchell is one of the 30, and there’s more to his story, also.
I never gave volleyball serious consideration for college. It’s more of a fun sport for me, but I really like basketball.
Buchanan High’s Donovan Mitchell, whose 16 kills helped the Bears to their latest Central Section title
The 6-foot-9 senior is headed to Wake Forest of the Atlantic Coast Conference to play basketball. And he could have had his choice of any West Coast college to have his freight covered in volleyball as well. And it’s on the West Coast that the elite of NCAA men’s volleyball can generally be found.
USC, UCLA, Stanford, Long Beach State – they all pursued the nationally ranked outside hitter.
“I never gave volleyball serious consideration for college,” he says. “It’s more of a fun sport for me, but I really like basketball.”
Sangha’s feeds to Mitchell – whether left or right up front or even from the back row – rendered Sanger virtually helpless because of his height and the powerful downward trajectory.
Nik Gettman and Logan Riding, with eight kills each, and Myles Dornhofer, with 19 digs, balanced the show for coach John Jay-directed Buchanan, which won 25-23 25-21, 25-18 while improving to 33-3 with its 10th section title since 1995.
Jay is 430-118 with 10 Tri-River Athletic Conference championships and six section titles in 16 years, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
The Bears and Sanger (30-9) will learn Sunday of their Southern California Regional placements.
The Apaches, who went unbeaten in the County/Metro Athletic Conference, made an immediate statement in front of a large crowd at Buchanan by bolting to a 6-1 first-set lead behind outside hitter Bryce Hayes, who would finish with nine kills.
Never, until the close of the third set, did Sanger allow the Bears to get away as junior setter Brandon Becerra remained in control. He had 28 kills despite having his glasses broken in the opening set. Coach Scott Okada helped tape them back together.
“That threw us off a bit,” says Okada, whose team is 32nd-ranked nationally by MaxPreps. “The momentum shifted.”
Jay agreed: “That first set was big. Winning the first set was huge for either team.”
CENTRAL SECTION CHAMPIONSHIP
Buchanan 3, Sanger 0
25-23, 25-21, 25-18
S, Casey Hashimoto 10 digs, Brandon Becerra 28 assists, Travis Leutmixay 11 kills, Bryce Hayes 9 kills. B, Taj Sangha 41 assists, Nik Gettman 8 kills, Myles Dornhofer 19 digs, Logan Riding 8 kills, Donovan Mitchell 16 kills. Records: Sanger 30-9, Buchanan 33-3.