Vernon, Silverstrom lead Central Section representation on Cal-Hi Sports All-State boys basketball teams

Tulare senior forward Keonta Vernon led Central Section representation on Cal-Hi Sports All-State boys basketball honors by making second team among the website’s Elite 35.

Tulare High senior forward Keonta Vernon, headed to Wyoming, led Central Section representation on Cal-Hi Sports All-State boys basketball honors by making the website’s second team among its Elite 35.

The Elite 35 is Cal-Hi’s top honor.

Bullard senior guard Corey Silverstrom, who shared The Bee’s Player of the Year honor with teammate Chris Russell, joined that group by making third team.

Other section players recognized:

All-State Underclass:

First team juniors: Rashad Jackson, Garces; Murshid Randle, Central, Calvin Young, Bullard.

Second team junior: Isaac Clark, Independence

First team freshman: Colin Slater, Clovis North

Tuesday’s prep marquee: Buchanan @ Clovis boys volleyball; Fresno @ Hoover baseball; Clovis @ Buchanan baseball

Tuesday’s hottest prep tickets:

Buchanan at Clovis boys volleyball, 6:30 p.m.: Clovis is 8-0 atop the Tri-River Athletic Conference and 30-5 overall. Buchanan, two-year reigning Central Section champion, is 7-1 and 21-9. Cougars, who last won a section title in 2006, defeated the Bears 3-2 three weeks ago. Clovis had gone 0-11 against Buchanan the past four years. Each team will close TRAC play Thursday. Section playoffs begin next week.

Fresno at Hoover baseball, 3:30 p.m.: Fresno can clinch a tie for the North Yosemite League title with a win today. Warriors are 10-1 in the league and 16-8 overall; Patriots are 8-3 and 14-12-1. Fresno beat Hoover 5-1 on April 3. Each team has three league games remaining after Tuesday, including a rematch Friday at Fresno. Playoffs begin in two weeks.

Buchanan’s Jack Wheeless is 10-0 with an 0.78 ERA entering tonight’s start at home against Clovis. He’s already beaten the Cougars 1-0.

Clovis at Buchanan baseball, 6:30 p.m.: Top-ranked Buchanan is 10-1 atop the TRAC and 23-2-1 overall. No. 3 Clovis is in third at 7-4 and 19-7. No. 2 Clovis North is in second at 8-3 and 21-5. Buchanan defeated Clovis 1-0 behind Jack Wheeless four weeks ago. The junior left-hander is 10-0 with an 0.78 ERA entering Tuesday’s s start. Each team will have three TRAC games left after Tuesday, including another against each other Friday at Clovis.

The TRAC has positioned itself to land the top three teams (Buchanan, Clovis North and Clovis) for the D-I playoffs. Section seedings will be May 11 in commissioner Jim Crichlow’s office in Porterville.



Iconic long-distance presence at Friday’s Reedley Invitational

Former Reedley High long-distance running great Pete Romero will “pass the torch” to Stockdale junior Blake Haney Friday in a special introduction at the Reedley Invitational.

It will be a Hall of Fame moment regarding Central Section long distance running at Friday’s 70th Reedley Invitational.

At about 5:30 p.m., at Reedley High, section track and field historian Ron Blackwood will introduce the leading 3,200-meter runners in Valley history — Stockdale’s Blake Haney and Reedley’s Pete Romero.

Haney, a junior, clocked 8 minutes and 48.58 seconds three weeks ago at the Arcadia Invitational to break Romero’s 46-year section record of 8:49.4.

Romero’s mark was a 2-mile time converted to 3,200 meters. Metric distances were implemented in the section in 1980.

“It will be Pete passing the torch, so to speak, to Blake,” says Aggie Contreras, Reedley’s coach and director of one of the state’s longest-running meets. “We thought it was a good idea.”

Also competing at Reedley in a meet that will begin at 3:30 p.m. will be Buchanan’s Cody Brazeal, who has run the fastest true 1,600 in section history at 4:07.72. Romero ran a converted 4:06.4 in his senior season at Reedley in 1967.

And yet another all-time section great entered Friday will be Madera South’s Jose Herrera, the Division I cross country champion in the fall, who is ranked No. 2 in the section this season in both the 1,600 (4:12.03) and 3,200 (9:07.82). Haney is No. 1 this season in the 1,600 (4:10.39).

Haney is top-ranked in the state for the season in both the 1,600 and 3,200. Herrera is No. 6 in the 1,600 and No. 9 in the 3,200.

Haney, Herrera and Brazeal are expected to represent the section well in the CIF State Track and Field Championships May 31 and June 1 at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Prep baseball: Buchanan’s Wheeless in spotlight, but don’t ignore Clovis West’s Marco Pierce

Buchanan’s Jack Wheeless has pitched consecutive no-hitters against Clovis East and Central entering his Tuesday night start at Clovis West.

The buzz, naturally, surrounds Buchanan High’s Jack Wheeless as he opposes Clovis West Tuesday night after throwing consecutive no-hitters against Central and Clovis East.

The junior left-hander will arrive for the 6:30 p.m. Tri-River Athletic Conference game at Stan Bledsoe Field with a 9-0 record, 0.37 earned-run average and having pitched 15 2/3 innings without giving up a hit.

A one-out, sixth-inning single to Clovis’ McCarthy Tatum on April 3 was the last hit Wheeless has surrendered.

Fine, but don’t forget about the other guy.

It was almost a year ago to the day — April 24, 2012 — that Clovis West’s Marco Pierce exploded onto the scene by delivering four innings of perfect relief in a 4-3 win at Buchanan.

Pierce, who had pitched only seven innings before that game, struck out nine, including the last eight batters he faced.

Seven months later, he was signed a substantial scholarship to play for the University of Oregon.

And, Tuesday night, the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder will take the ball in what promises to be a pitch-for-pitch duel with Wheeless.

Clovis West pitcher Marco Pierce, who will oppose Wheeless, has signed with the University of Oregon.

Pierce is 7-2 with a 2.40 ERA, and is 9-2 in two seasons, having struck out 91 with only 23 walks and 53 hits allowed in 72 1/3 innings.

The Golden Eagles’ cleanup batter is also hitting .338 this season with seven doubles, two home runs and 13 RBIs

“Marco’s having a great year,” Clovis West coach Kevin Patrick says, “and everytime he goes out, it’s been in pressure situations. I know he’ll focus on what he can control (against Buchanan). Maybe the pressure will be on (Wheeless).

“Obviously, Buchanan is a great rival, and rightfully so. Our kids are excited. They are starting to play at a higher level and with more confidence.”

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Edison girls 1,600 relay blister a 3:48.31 — No. 1 in state for season and No. 2 all-time in section

Edison’s Njeri Omawahleh, one of the state’s leading 400-meter runners, was part of the Tigers’ winning 1,600 relay Friday that clocked 3:48.31 — No. 1 in the state for the season and No. 2 all-time in the Central Section.

Edison High’s girls won the 1,600 relay at the Sanger Metric Classic Friday night in 3 minutes, 48.31 seconds — the No. 1 time in the state this season and No. 2 all-time in the Central Section.

The Tigers’ quartet of Tia Edwards, Njeri Omawahleh, Melese Crozier and Nailah Harris-Murillo just missed the section standard of 3:48.08, also set by Edison in 2009.

Never in the 39 years of girls competition at the CIF State Championships has the section produced a 1,600-relay champion.

The state finals will return to Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium May 31-June 1.

Edison’s boys also flew at Sanger in the 400-meter relay.

The Tigers’ exchange of Blake Wright, Kevin Nutt, Cooper Neal and Charles Wheeler won in 41.55 — No. 1 in the section for the season and No. 3 in the state.

Stockdale’s Blake Haney boasts state season-leading marks in the 1,600 (4:10.39) and 3,200 (8:48.58). Madera South’s Jose Herrera is No. 2 in the state in the 1,600 (4:12.03).

The section last delivered a state boys four-lap gold medalist 60 years ago — Reedley’s Bob Seaman, who won the mile in 4:21.0. The mile was then replaced by the 1,600 when metric distances were implemented in 1980.

Central’s L.J. Moore is tied with three others for state high jump lead at 6-10.

Clovis West’s Nikki Okwelogu ranks No. 2 and No. 4 in the state in the discus (158-10) and shot put (47-9 1/4).

And Edison’s Miciah Murray ranks No. 3 and No. in the state in the high jump (5-9) and long jump (18-8 1/2).

Here are section athletes currently ranked among the state’s top 10 for the season:

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Clovis and Clovis North “Play for the Cure” in Friday TRAC baseball

Mark Gardner, the San Francisco Giants’ bullpen coach and a former Clovis High pitcher, has donated orange and white batting gloves to Friday night’s “Play for the Cure” fundraiser matching the Clovis and Clovis North basetball teams on the Broncos’ field.

The Clovis North High baseball stadium will be awash in orange Friday, when the No. 3 Broncos and No. 2 Clovis “Play for the Cure” in a leukemia fundraiser at 6:30 p.m.

The “orange-out” Tri-River Athletic Conference game seeks to raise money to support cancer research and help patients in the Central Valley battling blood cancers. All proceeds from merchandise sales (orange t-shirts, cancer awareness wrist bands and jewelry) and donations will be given directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The game will also be played in honor of Chris Bush, a Pioneer High-San Jose student-athlete who lost his battle with leukemia on October 3, 2012, at the age of 16. His friends and family members will be in attendance at the game, as will Pioneer’s athletic director and coaches. Other families of cancer patients and survivors will also be present.

To support the cause, multiple donations have been given to members of the Broncos and Cougars baseball teams to create the orange-out game.

Mark Gardner, the San Francisco Giants’ bullpen coach, a former Clovis pitcher and father of Clovis North outfielder Daniel Gardner, donated orange and white batting gloves; Nike donated orange socks; Sports Chalet donated orange wrist bands; and Olive Garden is sponsoring pregame meals for both teams. The Fresno Grizzlies are also sharing their mascot Parker for the evening.

Jack Wheeless: 2 straight no-hitters and CW next target

Imagine being the pitching coach of the pitcher producing results rivaling the best in Central Section history.

Buchanan junior left-hander Jack Wheeless has pitched two consecutive no-hitters, is 9-0 and with an 0.37 ERA for the state’s seventh-ranked team.

OK, let’s be specific: Imagine being John Gross, the Buchanan High pitching coach for Jack Wheeless.

Gross broke it down to the simplest form after Wheeless, a junior left-hander, improved to 9-0 and an 0.37 earned-run average with his second consecutive no-hitter — a 6-0 Tri-River Athletic Conference win at Clovis East Tuesday night: “When a pitcher’s throwing three pitches for strikes, it’s a fun game to watch. Then it becomes a guessing game (for the hitters).”

Wheeless isn’t competing in an ordinary league.

Many, including Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis, regard the TRAC as arguably the finest in the state.

And Buchanan (20-2-1, 7-1), ranked No. 1 in the section and No. 7 in the state, leads the league by two games with seven remaining.

Wheeless, who also no-hit Central last week Tuesday in a 2-0 TRAC win, is one of seven players in section annals to pitch two straight no-hitters, section historian Bob Barnett says.

And only one — Selma’s Lloyd Allen, as a junior in 1967 — has thrown three in a row.

Wheeless will attempt to match Allen’s record next Tuesday in a 6:30 p.m. TRAC game at Clovis West.

“There’s a game that night?” Golden Eagles coach Kevin Patrick joked late Tuesday.

Wheeless will march into Stan Bledsoe Field with three consecutive shutouts and having given up only 26 hits in 57 innings for the season. He’s struck out 56 and walked 23.

Throwing primarily fastballs, plus a “dialed in” curveball and changeup, according to Gross, Wheeless struck out 11 against Clovis East, including the side in the seventh.

“I feel good, I feel great,” Wheeless says. “It’s awesome.”

Is there an explanation?

“I don’t know,” he says, “I’m doing the same thing since I was little — throw strikes, push through ’til the end and get it done.”

This isn’t as if Wheeless hasn’t got it done on the varsity level before, though not to this epic degree, of course.

Last year, while pitching behind seniors Dominic Topoozian and Holden Berger, he established himself against top-caliber competition as a sophomore — 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA and 60-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Buchanan coach Tom Donald and Gross emphasize two areas of Wheeless’ game — maturity and unflappable presence, in the dugout and on the bump.

Donald says: “He’s a pretty special player and it’s great to see his hard work paying off. He’s grown a lot. Last year, if he didn’t have his best stuff, he may not have pitched out of trouble. This year, he’s really turned the corner, mentally. I couldn’t be more happy and proud of that.”

Gross says: “He’s very relaxed, at ease, joking around in the dugout, and he takes it to the mound. He stays loose, and that helps him; he doesn’t sit there in the dugout and think about it too much, and that helps him.

“All his hard work is paying off. It’s a rare thing.”

Hagen Reedy’s latest: She has tendinitis; hopes to finish season

Buchanan’s Hagen Reedy, the Central Section’s defending champion in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, says she hopes to complete her senior season after an MRI showed she has tendinitis in her left leg.

Buchanan High star distance runner Hagen Reedy says she’s encouraged about the chances of completing her senior season in track and field after an MRI showed she has severe tendinitis in her left leg.

“It was negative stress fracture, negative everything else, so I guess that’s a good thing,” says the Central Section’s defending champion in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. “I have pretty high hope I can finish out the season.”

Reedy, a two-time Bee Runner of the Year in cross country who has signed with the University of Colorado, hasn’t competed in six weeks.

She says she hopes to return May 2 for the Tri-River Athletic Conference Championships at Clovis East. That will be followed by the North Area meet May 8 at Clovis East and the section Masters and CIF State finals May 18 and May 31-June 1 at Buchanan.

Reedy says she’ll immediately begin physical therapy, concentrating on flexibility and loosening up the iliotibial band — more commonly known as the IT — which runs from the outside of the thigh down below the knee.

“I’ll ease back into running as I’m told,” she says. “I feel like like I’m still in pretty good shape.”

New Edison football coach Matt Johnson: “This is a defining moment for the rest of my life”

Matt Johnson, for eight years a lead assistant in the Tim McDonald coaching era of Edison High football, has been appointed the Tigers’ new coach.

Matt Johnson, for eight years a lead assistant in the Tim McDonald coaching era of Edison High football, has been hired to take over the Tigers’ program.

“This a defining moment for the rest of my life,” he said. “The world of high school football really moves my meter; this is what I need to do.”

Johnson, 49, replaces Ricky Manning, who was fired after one season for what Manning has said publicly was for sending text messages to a 16-year-old female student.

Johnson will be the program’s fourth coach in four years, following Manning, McDonald and Jim O’Brien.

“Stability has been an issue,” Johnson said, “and what I’m giving up clearly should demonstrate my long-term commitment to a new chapter in my life. This is not a quick fix.”

Johnson, in addition to assisting McDonald at Edison for his split terms — from 2003-09 and then in 2011 as the Tigers went 68-26-2 — has also been director of operations for the World Sports Cafe, which McDonald opened in 1998.

McDonald recently moved to New Jersey after accepting an assistant coaching position for the New York Jets.

Johnson said he’ll continue to manage the restaurant in River Park indefinitely while pursuing his teacher’s credential with the ultimate goal of teaching at Edison.

McDonald and Johnson were football teammates at USC from 1983-85. Johnson graduated there with a bachelor’s degree in public administration.

Buchanan star runner Hagen Reedy scheduled for MRI

Buchanan High’s Hagen Reedy will have an MRI Thursday after an X-ray today on her injured left leg appeared “suspicious,” she was told by orthopedist Eric Hanson.

Buchanan High star long-distance runner Hagen Reedy will have an MRI Thursday after an X-ray today on her left leg “looked suspicious,” she was told by Eric Hanson of the Sierra Pacific Orthopedic Center.

Reedy says the MRI results won’t be known until Tuesday.

The Central Section’s defending champion in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races and a two-time Bee Runner of the Year in cross country hasn’t competed in a month because of discomfort she says is at a level she hasn’t experienced previously. And she ran through a combination of tendinitis and stress fractures as a sophomore.

There are eight weeks remaining in the track and field season, and she says she’ll only return if “pain free,” not wanting to risk further injury before launching her college career at the University of Colorado in the fall.