May 28, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Orange County athletes, coaches and fans lifted our spirits, inspired us in a tragic week

Cypress players including No. 3 Christian Chai and No. 35 Elijah Vaielua take the court for Friday’s game with Crean Lutheran. (Photo: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone)

A week ago, we mourned with the rest of the country when nine people, including the Lakers Kobe Bryant and Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli were killed in a helicopter crash.

Remarkably, athletes and coaches, including those in Orange County, with heavy hearts, were able to focus on the tasks at hand this week.

Appropriately, there were moments of silence and tributes all over Orange County. But then the athletes did what they do best.

They were honoring Kobe and Coach Altobelli by pursuing their passions and giving it all they had, either on the basketball floor, the baseball field. or in the pool. It’s the way that Kobe pursued life and basketball, the way Coach Altobelli approached life and coaching.

“I’m a Bulls fan, but the impact with Kobe and this generation was amazing to see, not just in LA but around the world,” said Cypress boys basketball Derek Mitchell. “It was a sad day for the basketball community but it was bigger than that. It was for the world.”

On the day that Kobe died, Corona del Mar boys basketball coach Ryan Schachter reflected on Kobe and another victim, coach and teacher Christina Mauser. who the coach and players knew well.

There was lots of energy and excitement at games. At Crean Lutheran, the stands were packed for the Empire League boys basketball showdown between Cypress and Crean Lutheran Friday night. A couple miles away, about 1,700 fans showed up for a PCL game between Beckman and Woodbridge to support Sissy Oberlin, Beckman’s athletic secretary and to raise funds for the Altobelli family. Oberlin is Altobelli’s sister.

Besides all the tributes, including one that attracted an estimated 2,500 to honor Coach Altobelli Tuesday at OCC, there were lots of games.

Tustin’s girls basketball team inched closer to the Empire League title, Cypress’ boys basketball squad clinched its third consecutive league crown extending its winning streak to 28 games over three seasons and Saddleback’s girls basketball team, coached by Al Martinez and Dan Lara, won the Orange Coast League crown.

Today, we gather with family and friends to watch and enjoy this amazing event, the Super Bowl, which Fox reported is expected to have a viewing audience of 100 million. But we do so with the nine victims very much on our minds.

In honor of the coaches and athletes in Orange County and in memory of the victims, here’s a look at some of the games we covered this week. (Information for the Northwood water polo story was provided by Coach Kyle Kim-E and photos were courtesy Michael An).

Just click on each link to see the stories.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com