YHS girls and boys basketball teams kickoff season jointly in ‘Madness’ showtime event

The 2019-2020 YHS boys and girls basketball teams. Back left: Elijah Hall; Michael Joaquin; Julian Hall; Luke Scherrer; Craig Haley; Peyton von Kaenel; Mitchell Carpenter; Mikhail Torres; Jonathan Stradford; Preston Gamroth; Kevin Theis; Matt Kraus. Front row in no particular order: Rachael Peters; Macy McKibban; Nicole Calbreath; Alexi Grippi; Halle Aldrich; Grace Estrada; Jazmin Gibson; Hailey Estrada; Leanne Cuevas; Peyton Shahoub; Abi Frisch; Asley Urban; Makayla Harding; Aubrey Moore.

It was a chance for some of the best female prep athletes around to perform on the same court at the inaugural Yucaipa High School “Madness Event” held in the Thunderbirds’ gym last Saturday.

A crowd of about 250 fans were treated to the unveiling of the 2019/2020 basketball season by way of long-range shooting, team drills and heated intersquad games.

YHS girls coach Jeremy Hoch and boys coach James Simpson said the event was designed to “jump start” the season and to create public interest.

Leanne Cuevas created much of the afternoon’s excitement by winning the 3-point shooting contest, connecting on a remarkable 10 within 30 seconds.

However, the boys won the overall contest, 19-18 on the strength of sharpshooters Matt Kraus and Kevin Theis who made six each beyond the arc.

The YHS boys and girls also went against each other in a free-throw contest with the boys winning 17-11.

“It was really cool to interact with the boys team, to bond and build friendships,” said senior point guard Macy McKibban.

“It was a new experience and something I hope they keep doing.” McKibban is among others on the girls’ roster with plenty of championship caliber experience.

The YHS girls were 17-9 last season and finished second in Citrus Belt League at 8-2. The YHS boys were 10-18 overall.

James Simpson acknowledged the success of the Hoch-led YHS girls’ basketball program, saying, “It’s obvious that the girls have been highly successful and we’d like to follow their success.”

Simpson said his players are challenging each other for playing time at a high level and it showed in the intersquad game on Saturday. Jonathan Stradford scored in bunches.

Fellow junior teammates Mitchell Carpenter (6-6, 190) and Michael Joaquin proved they are well-seasoned “game changers.”

Senior starter Mikhail Torres is injured and will not be available for season openers against Palm Springs and San Bernardino on Nov. 25-26. Peyton von Kaenel, a 6 feet 5 inch sophomore, is being worked slowly into the rotation.

Simpson, now in his second year as Yucaipa’s coach, gave high marks to C.J. Haley who showed skill at both ends of the court. Haley, only the third senior on Yucaipa’s roster, was called a “welcome surprise” by Simpson.

Along with Theis and Kraus, Yucaipa showed it has other long range options in Luke Scherrer and Preston Gamroth. Simpson said the Hall twins, Julian and Elijah are juniors with “very high basketball I.Q.”

McKibban described this season’s edition of girls “as a short team that is very good.” As noticed in Saturday’s showcase, Leanne Cuevas and Grace Estrada, both all-CBL second team last year, probably will do most of the scoring. But Yucaipa has plenty of proven champions elsewhere and it showed.

McKibban, Cuevas, Estrada, and Peyton Shalhoub are four-year varsity players who were on Citrus Belt League championship teams in 2016-17 and 2017-18. The four were joined on the 2017-18 title team by current teammates, Nicole Calbreath, Rachael Peters and Halle Aldrich. Senior Jazmin Gibson was in the program during both CBL championship seasons. Hoch has predicted that Peters, a junior will have a breakout season.

In addition, McKibban just finished her second season as an All-CBL golfer.

Estrada was also a highly regarded member of the YHS golf team as a junior but gave it up to concentrate on basketball. Likewise, Mitchell Carpenter is a two-time, all-CIF water polo goalie who finished eighth all-time in season saves in the Southern Section.

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