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A TRIBUTE TO A TRAILBLAZER
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- Prep Photo Editor William Johnson

LONG BEACH JORDAN  PIONEER:  KATHERINE HAMILTON LED THE PANTHERS TO THEIR FIRST MOORE LEAGUE CROWN IN 1977, WASELECTED TO THE ALL-CIF SOUTHERN SECTION DIV. 4-A TEAM IN 1979, CHOSEN MOORE LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR IN 1979 BEFORE BEING RECRUITED TO PAY FOR UC IRVINE TH SAME YEAR AND EMBARKED ON A BASKETBALL CAREER THAT LED TO HER INDUCTION TO THE ANTEATER HALL OF FAME IN 1989 

By Earl  Williams,

Sports Editor

Long Beach, CA — During the infancy years of competitive high school girls’ basketball and women’s collegiate sports, Katherine Hamilton made an everlasting footprint on the Southern California landscape. 

  By the time Hamilton, who died from a Pulmonary embolism on Nov. 22, 2023 in Las Vegas, entered Long Beach Jordan High, a pathway to more opportunities in athletics was paved for her and other female basketball players everywhere. 

  Title IX, the federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in education and activities, was enacted in 1972.

  This paramount, breakthrough legislation enabled Hamilton to showcase her skills to college recruiters on the high school circuit, earn a partial athletic scholarship or tuition assistance to compete at the next level. Prior to this, high school girl athletes had limited opportunities to compete beyond graduation. The policy was a game-changer.

  In the 1970s and early 1980s, Hamilton made a great impression wherever she laced up her sneakers. From blacktops to hardwood floors around Long Beach and the southland, Hamilton delivered strong performances throughout her storied basketball career.

HOF INDUCTEE EMBRACED MOTHERHOOD
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- Prep Photo Editor William Johnson

LONG BEACH JORDAN  PIONEER:  KATHERINE HAMILTON LED THE PANTHERS TO THEIR FIRST MOORE LEAGUE CROWN IN 1977, WASELECTED TO THE ALL-CIF SOUTHERN SECTION DIV. 4-A TEAM IN 1979, CHOSEN MOORE LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR IN 1979 BEFORE BEING RECRUITED TO PAY FOR UC IRVINE TH SAME YEAR AND EMBARKED ON A BASKETBALL CAREER THAT LED TO HER INDUCTION TO THE ANTEATER HALL OF FAME IN 1989 

By Earl Williams,

Sports Editor

LONG BEACH, CALIF. In the mid-2000s, you would often find her at the entrance of St. Anthony High gymnasium receiving entry fees for the Lady Saints basketball games or handing out hotdogs, soda, water, candy, or chips behind the snack-bar. On other occasions, you would see her and her sister, Adrienne, sitting in the stands cheering for the JV team and the varsity squad later in the evening.

   Katherine Hamilton always did her part to support the girls’ basketball program, especially the teams her niece, Denisha, played on, a small forward she raised as her own.

   “A lot of mothers do the best they can with what they know,’’ said Toni Hixon, a former Long Beach Recreation supervisor and friend of Katherine. “It was not easy for Katherine had to have her niece in Catholic School because the tuition was not cheap.

“She was not a strict mother, but she was firm. She and Adrienne were supportive. If we needed something or someone to work the snack-bar, you could count on them. We did not have to call them a couple of times. If they said they were going to do it, they did.”

  Katherine took great care of Denisha, as did Adrienne. The Hamilton sisters teamed to provide Denisha with a loving, stable home, and the best 

education possible.  

HBCU FOOTBALL COMBINE A GAME-CHANGER
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- Prep Photo Editor William Johnson

ON-THE-SPOT OFFERS: HBCU coaches extended athlete scholarship offers to a minimum three athletes on-the-spot and began the recruitment process with a plethora of others who shined over two days of skill drills, one-on-ones and other measurable assessments. Over 200 athletes participated in the five-annual showcase.

By Edward Williams,

Sports Editor

LYNWOOD, CALIF.— Coming out of high school in New York, 6-foot-2 running back Mohamed Nyangamukenga had some offers from NCAA Division I universities. However, he couldn’t accept any because he didn’t have the grades.

  So he packed his bags and headed to the West Coast, Southern California to be precise.  Over six games last season at MT. SAC, he bulldozed through and around defensive lines for 5 yards per carry en route to compiling 461 yards and seven touchdowns.

  The 250 pound back, who idealizes Christian Okoye “The Nigerian Nightmare” who starred for the Kansas City Chiefs from the 1987 to the early 1992, found a new home in late April when he reaffirmed his commitment to Norfolk State University in Virginia. 

  Over two days at the HBCU Football Combine Nyangamukenga shined amongst over 200 athletes who competed in several drills and skill-tests, and one-on-ones. The event invited high school seniors, JUCO and transport portal athletes from SoCal to all over the country.

  “I love HBCUs. I want to go to a school where I feel at home, I feel welcome and be around my people, have fun,’’ he said. “This was a great opportunity to show your talent. It’s actually like a really big deal. People should take it more seriously. Come out here and work.”

 Last season at Mt. SAC, in six games, the bruising back rushed for 461, averaging 5 yards per game for seven touchdowns.

 Corey Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 280 lineman, who plays both ways for Orange Vista High in Perris, California, caught the eyes of coaches from Morgan State University and Prairie View A&M University. Both offered the junior athletic scholarships on-the-spot. 

 Johnson’s power, footwork, speed, protect technique and IQ on the offensive line stood out.

 The standout already checks nearly all boxes of measurable’s FBS Power 5 programs look for. The prototype is 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, can bench 320 lbs. and squat 450 lbs.

  Besides his size, Johnson benches 365, squats 584 and power cleans 315.  At the combine, he demonstrated excellent balance at pad level with knee bend and natural wide base. Pass set, slide and mirror with ease appeared to natural for him, too. His 40-meter time, shuttle time and broad jump measurable assessments weren’t made available.

  “It means a lot. I put a lot of hard work into this, I put my whole life into this,’’ said Johnson, who entered the combine without any offers and didn’t know why other coaches prior to the combine see his potential. “I started playing football when I was four years old and didn’t really start taking it seriously until my freshman year of high school. “I put out my own tapes. It’s really didn’t do that. I’m blessed.’’

L.B. JORDAN REACH CIF-SS TITLE GAME 
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- Prep Photo Editor William Johnson

AHEAD OF SCHEDULE:  Long Beach Jordan High boys basketball coach Chris Francis is a survivor. His life experience has taught him lessons he'll never forget. Today, he is relentless. The book smart and street-wise 52-year-old gets the most out of his athletes. In a short time, the Panthers have ascended from near the basement of the Moore League to the pinnacle and the pinnacle of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A.  For the first time since 2006, they can add to their collection of three titles. Altogether, if they defeat Sage Hill at 7 p.m. at Edison High, it'll be the Panthers' fourth title in school history and Francis's third, but first with them.

By Edward Williams,

Sports Editor

LONG BEACH — LONG BEACH — If former student body members of Jordan High toured the campus today, they would barely recognize it. The school is currently undergoing a multimillion dollar revitalization project.
   When last checked, inside the football field and the gymnasium are some of the last remaining recognizable venues of the school erected in 1933, the year of the Long Beach earthquake that devastated the area, collapsing buildings at Poly and Wilson, the oldest Long Beach Unified School District high schools.
  The gymnasium is expected to be one of the last buildings to undergo modernization. 
In late November of last year, if you entered the foyer and looked inside the trophy case, you’d notice that many of the CIF plaques and the more recent photos of championship teams and legendary athletes were showcased. You’d also noticed a prominent photo of Chris Francis, who had taken over the boys' basketball program a year ago, inside. 
  It may have seemed to be a little premature to display him there then, but it certainly isn’t now. If he and the rest of the Panthers defeat Sage Hill at 4 p.m. today in the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A championship at Edison High in Huntington Beach, it is conceivable he and 2023 team will take its rightful place in Jordan's history along with its 1991, 1993 and 1996 boys basketball championship teams. They will forever be mentioned with Panther’s greats who donned the blue, black and white with pride.
  Francis, a true blue blood, already knows about being bestowed such an honor. In his first high school coaching stint at King Drew in Compton, the 52-year-old won two CIF LA-City Section titles in four years.
  "It is hard to get back to that level,'' said Francis, who guided King Drew to CIF-LA City Section titles in 2003 and 2004.  "My buddies told me some people have been coaching for years and have never competed in a championship or a playoff game.'' 
  Last December, the Panthers battled through rough terrain, taking some lumps and bruises along the way. They faced enormous tests on the road against traditional powerhouses such as Sierra Canyon High (lost 93-50), Harvard-Westlake (lost 84-40), St. John Bosco (lost 109-85), and Fairfax won 67-60), and solid programs in Mayfair (won 78-76), Leuzinger (lost 71-66). The schedule prepared them for Moore League rivals Lakewood, Poly, Wilson, and Millikan. Compton had a down year. Cabrillo was a work in progress. 
  The Panthers, who won the Moore League, finished with an overall record of 20-12 and a conference record of 10-2. They upset the Lancers in the round of league competition, but they could not escape the Lancers the second time they played, and they dropped a game to Millikan.
Win or lose, Jordan earns an automatic berth to the State Regional Playoffs and advances to the CIF State championship game, something that has eluded the Panthers since their inception.

    SPENCER'S GOAL IS TO BE GAME CHANGER 
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- Prep Photo Editor William Johnson

TEACHING LIFE LESSONS:  Cabrill high coach Chris Spencer takes pride in making a positive impact in the lives of his student-athletes. Before he begins to teach them how to play basketball, he makes sure they know he cares. In fact, he is heavily involved in their lives so they can function on the court. He makes it a point because he wants to be the kind of coach that is there for him like the ones who helped him make it through life and his mother died when he was 15 years old.

By Edward Williams,

Sports Editor

LONG BEACH -- In early October, the drizzle eased. Sun rays shinned brightly through misty clouds over the gymnasium of Cabrillo High.
   The crisp wind swirled about atmosphere. Beyond the double doors, hope, optimism, and chatter echoed from baselines to baseline, bleacher to bleacher. 
You could hear the sweet sounds of basketballs swishing through nets and pounding the hardwood floor as sneakers squeaked ever so sharply.
  Student-athletes elevated as high as they possibly could for tip drills on the backboard, chased balls during closeout drills, raced to basketballs past half-court to go one-on-one to score baskets, and then ran suicides. 
  They worked hard to elevate their game to meet the standards of coach Chris Spencer.  His goal is to be a game-changer in the boys basketball program and the lives of each of his players.
These days, his life lessons start outside the game, move inside to practice and spills over to game days where the first-year coach dresses like he belongs in the pulpit of new age Evangelical church.   
  His freshly cut fade, neatly trimmed lumberjack beard, bright tangerine tie with matching BAPE sneakers —this generation version of Gators— and black, trendy suit is an exemplary example to his athletes of how to present themselves in public. 
Spencer, who also took on the coaching duties of the varsity girls program down the stretch of the season, is determined to change mindsets and culture at Cabrillo High.

BITTER-SWEET VICTORY FOR L.B. CABRILLO
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-Prep Photo Editor William Johnson

THIRTEENTH VICTORY:  DeShon McMiller scores 22 points, grabs 15 rebounds, has 11 assists and six steals in the Cabrillo’s 13th victory of the season, which ties a school record for wins in a season. It's coach head coach Chris Spencer’s first season at the helm.  Players are grateful to be playing under his tutelage. He has provided student-athletes with training, development, and leadership on and off the court never received before his arrival.

By Edward Williams,

Sports Editor

LONG BEACH — Several weeks ago, Cabrillo coach boys basketball Chris Spencer said his goal was to tie and surpass the Jaguars’s best win total ever in the history of the school.

  Thirteen and fourteen wins were realist.

Well, on Wednesday night, he and his crew accomplished the first  goal with a 75-65 Victory against Compton on Senior Night.

 Senior point guard De Shon McMiller scored 22 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists and six steals, and to improved to 13-10 overall and to appears to be in good position to possibly qualifying for the first threshold to making the CIF Southern Section playoffs where they are currently ranked in the top 25 in Division 5 in MaxPreps rankings.

“The bitter-sweet thing is we tied the school’s win total tonight,’’ Spencer said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy it because of a horrible effort. Nothing about that is the way we play basketball. Trying to do a favor for the senior guys that aren’t typically at the top of your rotation. I honored them for getting through our conditioning, during everything right to our standards, it ended up leaving us up in a tough game. It’s a first-year coaching mistakes. It happens. We got the win. I’ll take it. But it’s not a good win by any means.”

  Even though the Jaguars won, Spencers wasn’t exactly satisfied with the win. He gave his team a tough lashing they’ll likely never forget for the rest of their lives. It was great to get the win. However, the team didn’t execute his game plan to his satisfaction throughout the game.

Josiah Parchman 16 points and seven rebounds, and Chad Washington added 15 points, and 6 rebounds, respectively.

 “It wasn’t one of our best wins,’’ said Jeremy Siquig, a junior guard who had seven points, two assists and two steals. 

Oshon Mitchell led Compton with 23 points and Jordan Banks tossed in 17 in a losing cause for the Tarbabes who are winless in Moore League competition.

  “I thing this is a great accomplishment, giving the fact we haven’t had this in years,’’ said McMiller, who is in his second season with Cabrillo. “This win tonight will start our playoff run.”

PANTHERS CLAW, POUNCE TO SURVIVE THRILLER
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- Prep Photo Editor William Johnson

OVERTIME:  L.B. Jordan’s ferocious defense caused all kind of havoc on the floor in overtime, leading to multiple turnovers and layups, 3-pointers, and free throws to pull away from the pesky Lancers.

By Edward Williams,

sportswriter

LONG BEACH- In the late 1970s, Long Beach Jordan High's drama department became well-known for staging some of the best performances. "Nights On Broadway" received rave reviews by those who had the pleasure seeing live, up-close and person.

  These days, the theatrics are being played out at the Cats' Cave, the gymnasium where the boys basketball team has the spotlight aimed directly upon it. Last Wednesday night, the Panthers and Lakewood Lancers put on a show that brought down the house.

    Utter jubilation broke out on North Atlantic Avenue. 

  Jordan High players collided, banging into each other in mid-air, yelling to the top of their lungs and slapping five in celebration. A student inside the foyer couldn’t help himself. He could be heard shouting, “HEAH!” and seen clutching his arms to his side as if he had just spent 36 minutes chasing a ball on the hardwood. 

  The Panthers, now 11-9, 6-0, escaped a good Lakewood High squad in a Moore League showdown, which pitted old rivals and top two teams in their respective divisions in CIF Southern Section against each other. 

  The, 82-72, victory, in overtime, was sweeter to the Panthers because they had to dig deeper to rally from 6-point deficit in the waning minutes in regulation to get a shot at winning the game.

  “It’s about our kids listening and doing what we ask them to do,’’ said Jordan coach Chris Francis. “When they do, we are a really good team. We had some selfish play. We had to calm some kids down. Other than that. We played well.”

   In regulation, both teams went on scoring sprees to keep pace with each other.

   With less than two seconds left on the scoreboard in regulation, Frank Chambers, Panthers’s senior point guard, dribbled down the gut of the defense towards the basket, found Kane Young in the deep corner. 

   Young’s 3-pointer swished threw the rim to tie the game up at 66 to send the game into overtime. Before this, Lakewood (7-11, 3-2), which appeared to have some cushion and momentum, opened the door for the Panthers get back into the game by fouling Jordan shooters multiple times at the arc. 

HE COVERED ATHLETES LIKE THEY WERE PROS
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-High School Spotlight James Matthews

TRIBUTE TO THE LIFE:  James Matthews, the founder and online publisher of High School SpotLight sports media passed on Nov. 8, a week after conducting a celebration of life service for his mother. His service is Jan. 9 at Riverside National Cemetery. 

By Edward Williams,

sportswriter

He seemed to be everywhere. You could always hear the clicks of  shutters of his advanced Digital SLR 35 mm Canon cameras and see the reflection of sunlight or deem gym lights in his variable lens to capture the thrill of victories or agony of defeats. 
  Football fields, tracks stadiums, soccer fields, hardwood floors in gymnasiums of high schools in the CIF Southern and LA City sections-- and other venues from here to San Francisco -- could have very well been James Ray 
Matthews second homes. That’s where he documented some of the greatest feats and theatrics of local athletes in and around counties of Los Angeles. That’s where he’d gather to chat, laugh and joke with friends and colleagues about sports and nearly everything else under the sun.  He was a walking encyclopedia of high school sports.
  The gregarious sports publisher of High School SpotLight, with an infectious smile, talked to strangers as if he knew them all his life. He formed relationships and built bonds that will last forever.
   Many times, he gave athletes and parents his photos away for free. He had a deep passion and heart for sports and a deeper passion and heart for athletes and their parents, and his family.  
    Matthews, who died from a heart attack on Nov. 8, a week after holding a celebration of life service for his mom, Annie Mae Matthews, was a fixture on the Southern California high school sports scene for over two decades.  

EAGLES SOAR OVER SPARTANS AT TOURNEY 
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-- Special to the Preptown Sports

SANTA MARGARITA:  Brayden Kyman, a 6-foot-6 freshman guard, poured in 15 points to lead the Eagles, to earn MVP honors. Mercadel and Kole Clark of Orangewood Academy scored 14 apiece in loss.

By Edward Williams,

sportswriter

GARDEN GROVE— It was live, not a Memorex video tape. The translation for this generation of basketball enthusiasts?: It was not a video viewed trending on YouTube, Reels, Instagram, TikTok, etc.

  Within a twinkling of an eye, Orangewood Academy point guard, Cameron Mercadel, took a few steps into the paint from a pass by Kole Clark, took flight to throw the basketball down the throat of the rim, a hard, thunderous dunk which punctuated the moment and posterized his former Santa Margarita teammates.

  Nothing personal. It was business Saturday in the championship game of 13th Annual Spartan Classic.

  The 6-foot-1 junior yelled and swung his arms, all fired-up in celebration.

  On a prior trip up the floor, someone from bench area of Santa Margarita had yelled “We’re bailing him out. He’s taking crappy shots,’’ in reference to the a wide-open mid-range bank-shot that Mercadel missed when he was fouled and went to the free throw line.

  Despite Mercadel and his teammates’ heroic efforts down the stretch, they couldn’t erase enough of the 9-point halftime deficit, falling to the Eagles, 51-50, in front of a sizable crowd of supporters. Once the scoreboard showed zero, the Eagles bumped each other at mid-court in celebration of the win.

SCHOLAR ATHLETE MAKES A GREAT POINT
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-- Sports Editor Edward Williams

STEADY HAND:  Since elementary school,  Willis has been a standout student-athlete who gives everything he has to win on the floor and in the classroom.

By Edward Williams,

sportswriter

You may not see a cooler, calmer basketball player on the floor. That’s Lakewood High Chris Willis’s M.O.  You can harass him from baseline to baseline during the most critical moments of games and his demeanor rarely ever changes. 

   The junior point guard handles pressure extremely well. Why? Chris is nearly a carbon copy of his father, Robert Willis Sr.  Chris is a little taller, just as intelligent and faster with ball, and with a tad bit more explosion off the dribble. Chris, however, isn’t as tall as his brother Robert Willis Jr.                  (now 6-foot-4), who also played point guard for Poly High. But their games are similar. “Rob Sr.” groomed his sons to handle point-guard duties ever since they were big enough to lace up sneakers and cross someone over. 

    It’s under stable. From the early to mid 1980s, Rob was a standout point guard at Long Beach Jordan High and Loyola Marymount before playing professionally overseas.  Rob, also the Lancers assistant coach, has not only taught Chris the fundamentals of the game, but has shown him how to analyze and maneuver through nearly every situation opposing coaches have thrown at him.  Today, you can definitely see Chris’s ability to manage the floor. 

     Chris often makes the right decisions at the right time to help his teammates maximize their full potential.  His strong handles, strong mid-range game and instincts on both ends of the floor gave the Lancers a good chance to win or be competitive in every game.  For the third season, the 5-foot-11 floor leader was selected to the All-Moore League team.  Last year, with his guidance, Lakewood advanced to the quarterfinals of CIF Southern Section Div. III Playoffs, where Lancers had not advanced to in a while.  This year, he led them to the secord round of CIF-SS Div. I-A. The Lancers finished with a 21-6 overall record, the best in 20 years. Of course, Chris had plenty of firepower around him.  He complimented them nicely. This season, he averaged 13.6 ppg, 3.6 apg and 5 rpg.  This is coming off last year’s stats of 11.5 ppg., 4 apg. and 1.8 spg.  Yes! He also delivered the deep balls, too. He led the Lancers with 39 3-pointers.   

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