Boys basketball: Cast your vote for Player of the Year

Boys basketball: Cast your vote for Player of the Year

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A remarkable boys basketball season for the Central Coast ended abruptly last month. 

Three area teams made the semifinals of their division, with Arroyo Grande advancing to a CIF State championship game that never materialized. 

With that said, it's now time for us at the Santa Maria Times to dole out some of our postseason awards. We will be announcing our All-Area MVP this weekend. 

In the meantime, we wanted to see what our readers think. So our annual SMT Player of the Year voting has returned. 

We have found seven worthy candidates from San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara County.

There are two players from the same school: Arroyo Grande's Gage Gomez and Robert Hutchens. Both players shared the Mountain League co-MVP honor this past season as the Eagles rolled to the league championship. The Mountain League is probably the toughest league in the area, with the Channel League not far behind.

Since Gomez and Hutchens split the Mountain MVP honor, they're both listed here as I can't pick one over the other. 

Arroyo Grande made the CIF Central Section Open Division bracket, losing to top seed Clovis West in the semifinals. The Eagles then won the CIF State SoCal Regional Division 3 championship. They were set to play in a state title game last month, but the game was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Arroyo Grande finished 28-6 on the season. The Eagles went 9-1 in league play.

Then there's another Mountain League standout: St. Joseph junior Jincho Rivera. The 6-foot-4 wing may be the most talented player in his league. Rivera averaged a double-double with nearly 20 points and over 11 rebounds a game. 

Rivera powered the Knights to the CIF Central Section Division 1 semifinals, where the Knights lost to eventual champion Clovis East.

Rivera got stronger as the season went on, scoring 36 points in a playoff win over Fresno Central. Rivera was St. Joseph's top-scorer in just about every late-season game. 

St. Joseph finished 25-8 overall. The Knights handed Arroyo Grande its only league loss, a 67-64 overtime win in January. 

Who is your SMT Player of the Year?

You voted:

Nipomo's Daren Sosa was named the Ocean League MVP as he led the Titans to the league co-championship with Morro Bay. 

Sosa, one of the top shooters in the area, averaged 17 points a game and hit on over 45 percent of his 3-point attempts. Nipomo went 19-10 overall and 10-2 in the Ocean League. 

San Luis Obispo, a member of the Mountain League who scored a pivotal league win over St. Joseph -- a result that prevented the Knights from tying A.G. for the league title, also made the CIF semifinals, where the Tigers lost to Visalia Redwood. 

Carson Leedom capped off his stellar senior season (in both football and basketball) by powering the Tigers in the post. The 6-foot-6 front-court star averaged 14.3 points per game and over nine rebounds for San Luis Obispo.

Now we'll move over to the CIF Southern Section and the Channel League, where the Braves of Lompoc High featured one of the top post players in Santa Barbara County, Collin Oestereich. The 6-foot-8 senior took his game to another level in 2020, bulking up to overpower defenders in the paint. Oestereich used his old-school post-work to average nearly 16 points and nine rebounds for the Braves. Lompoc finished 9-16 overall.

Cabrillo, which beat Lompoc twice this past season, was led by Reggie Orr, a sophomore who made the All-Channel League First Team. There are no stats available for Orr, but the combo guard is definitely a player to keep an eye on. He's about 6-foot-1 and is currently more of an athletic slasher type player. But if he continues to develop his game over the next two years, he clearly has the physical tools to play at a four-year school after high school. He can play the point or play off the ball as a shooting guard. 

Orr helped the Conqs go 19-11 on the season and 6-4 in Channel League play. The Conqs won two playoff games before falling to Lancaster Eastside, which eventually the CIF State SoCal Division 5 regional. 

Vote online! You can vote online at santamariatimes.com all week. Our All-Area MVP will be announced Saturday evneing.

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