Consistently playing at a high level resulted in the Yucaipa boys basketball team demonstrating marked improvement throughout the 2019-2020 season. A 17-12 overall record included wins against seven non-league playoff teams. Finishing 3 in the challenging Citrus Belt League, at 6-4, qualified the Thunderbirds for the Division 3A, Southern Section Playoffs.
Second year Thunderbird Head Coach James Simpson said, “good teams anticipate adversity and rise above it. We played our first six games without senior Mikhail Torres who was recovering from surgery. C.J. Haley, senior forward, and Junior Elijah Hall stepped in admirably and contributed greatly during that span.” A challenging non league schedule helped prepare the team for the CBL Schedule.
Cajon won the CBL with a record of 9-1 which included two victories over Yucaipa. The Thunderbirds won an exciting home game, Jan. 15, against rival Redlands East Valley on a thrilling buzzer beater by junior guard, Jonathan Stradford in overtime. Yucaipa split with Citrus Valley winning the second matchup 74-49. Two wide margin wins were achieved against Carter. One victory in a pre-season tournament vs. Redlands High School and two more in the CBL included a convincing victory on senior night, 71-42. Seniors honored were sharpshooter and much improved defender Kevin Theis, team’s most improved player C.J. Haley and returning starter Mikhail Torres. “Mikhail and Kevin were with us last year and I am so happy for them that we experienced marked improvement they can be proud of. C.J. was a pleasant surprise and he made a significant contribution. Hard working boys that I had the pleasure to coach,” Simpson stated.
Yucaipa was consistently led by all CBL first team players Jonathan Stradford and junior guard Michael Joaquin. They were co-captains and stat leaders but most importantly they led by example with their effort. All CBL second team members included junior, Mitchell Carpenter and Mikhail Torres. Kevin Theis was recognized with honorable mention.
Our improvement was the result of the team buying into the system that was presented to them. Athletic Director Matt Carpenter and Principal Shad Kirkland met my request for a 6 period boys basketball P.E. class. The class gave us valuable time to grow individually and as a team with focused instruction. “Sharing the class period with the successful girls basketball program has been a privilege and a pleasure. We inspire one another! Simpson said.”
Simpson stated “with continued focus and determination the future can be bright. We will return nine players from this year’s improved team. The off season will include spring, summer and fall leagues. Winning is hard, we need to put in the work and endure. The rewards will follow. I am encouraged by the progress we have made and excited about the future of our Yucaipa boys basketball program.”