Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ventura Raceway holds season opener Saturday

By Lee Elder

Racing returns to Ventura Raceway with tomorrow’s season opener. Let the excitement begin.
The Ventura Racing Association’s Sprint Car and Sports Compact classes will begin their season, along with the IMCA Modifieds, USAC Junior Ford Focus Midgets and the crowd-pleasing California Lightning Sprints. Racing starts at 5:30 p.m.
The off-season has been a busy one for promoter Jim Naylor, the raceway staff and friends. A complex construction project has lengthened the racing surface and made the corner banking steeper. Lap times will be quicker and the venue’s reputation for close competition will remain.
“The opener will be a fast-paced night,” Naylor said. “The cars will be faster and we’ve built a really racy track. We could probably sell every seat twice because the customers will spend most of their time jumping up and down and having a good time. They’ll be too excited to sit down.”
Ticket prices at the Ventura Raceway are family-friendly because kids under 12 can attend the races free of charge when accompanied by an adult. General admission tickets cost $14. The student, military and senior price is $11.
“Ventura Raceway has always been a place for the whole family,” Naylor said. “That’s what this is all about. Our ticket prices reflect that.”
Ventura Raceway is located at Seaside Park just a few yards from the Pacific Ocean. The track has hosted nationally televised races 18 times, attracting future superstars the likes of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Naylor is a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
Ventura Raceway is the only successful professional sports franchise in Ventura County history and is among the longest-tenured entities at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. More information is available at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coyotes win CIF crown

Besant Hill squad takes CIF-SS title in first year of league play

By Mike Miller

In just their first year of CIF play, the Besant Hill Coyotes and their Cameroon Connection made history last Friday night when they defeated Hope Centre Academy of Compton, 74-63. With the victory, the Coyotes claimed the school's first-ever CIF title. Head coach Randy Bertin said, "This has meant so much to our players, students, and everyone connected to Besant Hill School. There is a different energy around our campus and we all just keep looking at the championship trophy."
Leading up to the title game, the Coyotes had been leveling their opponents, winning by an average of 32 points per game, but Hope Centre Academy presented some challenges for Besant Hill. The game went back and forth and included 12 lead changes and four ties. "They were an extremely athletic team and they took 82 shots in the game, which is a lot of shots. All season we worked on our conditioning so that we would not get beat in the fourth quarter of games and I really think that is why we were able to pull away late in the game," added Bertin.
With the game tied at the half, the Coyotes made some adjustments in the locker room which allowed them to pull away late in the game. "All week we worked on rebounding and blocking out. We knew that they were going to take a lot of shots and that we needed to box out. Early in the game they were killing us on the offensive boards. In the first half, they had 17 offensive rebounds but after we made some adjustments, they only managed three in the second half. I think that was the key to the game," noted Bertin.
The Coyotes were led by junior superstar Yannick Atanga, who scored 35 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Bertin said, "Yannick really played well, he did so many things right for us." Not to be outdone, sophomore Francois Tchoyi put home 23 points and recorded 16 rebounds as well. Ivan Matip, who has been the floor general all season for Besant Hill, scored 14 points and snatched 12 rebounds from his point guard position.
After clinching their first title, Bertin was asked what this accomplishment would mean to the school. "I think that it will mean that our school and our students will be viewed as being well-rounded. When we started our athletics program, we said from the beginning that we wanted to do it right and we wanted our kids to develop a life-long love for athletics and living a healthy lifestyle. I think that we are off to a good start. When I look at the players that we have that really did not have much experience playing basketball, I see how far they have come and how much they have improved and I think that they will play basketball for the rest of their lives. That is what this was all about."
Besant Hill fans have a lot to look forward to next season as well. The team will graduate only two players and according to Bertin, all of his other players will be back. "Our weakness is our depth, so hopefully we can get improve on that next year by getting some new freshmen in here," he said.
With their win over Hope Centre, Besant Hill earned a spot in the CIF Southern California Division V Tournament. The Coyotes hosted a very good Mission Prep team from San Luis Obispo last Monday night at Thacher in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. The Coyotes exploded out the gate, claiming a 10-1 lead to open the game. The first half was textbook high school basketball as both teams executed their game plans flawlessly. The Royals took a slim 33-32 lead into the half, thanks in large part to the stellar play of their leading scorer, Robert Souza.
In the second half, Mission Prep benefitted from a couple of questionable foul calls late in the game that put the Coyotes in foul trouble and their lack of depth began to come into play. In the third quarter, Tchoyi picked up his fourth foul and was forced to the bench and then Atanga fouled out in the fourth quarter on a mystery foul away from the ball. Despite a valiant effort by Matip to keep Besant Hill in the game, they lost 72-60.
Souza led all scorers with 32 points while Matip poured in 28 and Atanga added 18. After the game, an appreciative crowd thanked the Coyotes for their historical season with a long-standing ovation and a chant of "BHS." The team finished their season with a 22-2 record and a championship banner.
With tears running down her cheeks, a Besant Hill fan on her way out of the gymnasium said, "I am so proud of those boys. They brought so much joy to all of us this season. We are sad to see the season end."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Besant Hill Crowned CIF Champs

Besant Hill's dream season concluded last night with a 74-63 victory over Hope Centre Academy of Compton. With the win, the Coyotes claimed their first ever CIF Title. The Champs finished their season with a 22-1 record, including an impressive 20 consecutive wins.

Yannick Atanga was the star of the night for the Coyotes, scoring 35 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Sophomore Francois Tchoyi chipped in with 23 points and 16 boards, while Ivan Matip had 14 points and 12 rebounds. After being tied at the half, the Coyotes asserted their skills en route to the 11 point win.

For more details on the title game, see Wednesday's edition of the OVN.