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CCECHS Basketball – A Season That Made History

CCECHS Basketball – A Season That Made History

The Community Charter High School boys basketball program had some success at its inception
with three twenty plus win seasons. The program though went through a rough stretch from 2013-
2015 winning only three games in three seasons including going winless in the 2014-2015 season.
In the fall of 2015 a special class of freshman entered the halls of CCHS after completing middle
school next door at CCMS. This class of freshman had five young men who at the time never knew
what they could become, they only had hopes and dreams at competing at a high level. The bond that
grew between these five young men would be the reason this group would make history by the time
they were seniors.

The class included now seniors Brandon Chavarria, Sebastian Sandoval, Steven Jones, Kevin
Sandoval, and Alex Tarax. Due to some immaturity and self-professed “laziness” Chavarria and
Tarax had to miss the first half of their freshman year, along with junior Monya Ward due to
ineligibility because of poor grades.

This forced Kevin Sandoval, and Sebastian Sandoval into starting roles from the get go. They were
not ready for such a responsibility, but they didn’t complain and played hard making their share of
mistakes, but not giving up in the process. When Chavarria, Tarax, and Ward returned after
Christmas the Titans were 1-7.

“Although it was tough for us, it was honestly the best thing for us because it gave us valuable
experience that would help us the next four years here,” Sebastian Sandoval said.
The additions to the team did not have immediate success as they lost three of the first four games
after the break. But slowly this group of freshmen started stepping up the Titans closed out the
season winning three of their last four games including a memorable senior victory over rival
Triumph which saw senior captain David Aparicio foul out at the end of the third quarter forcing
Sebastian Sandoval to have to step up in crunch time. He did just that as he and fellow freshman
Brandon Chavarria gave us a little taste about what could be expected of them over the next four
years.

Chavarria scored eight points in the fourth quarter and Sandoval, known as “The Silent Assassian”
due to his quiet demeanor, hit the first of many big shots during his career burying a go-ahead threepointer
that gave the Titans their first lead of the game with under two minutes to play in the game.
He then clinched the game with an offensive rebound and put-back with twenty seconds to go to ice
a memorable Titans victory over Triumph.

“I was only a freshman and I was just trying to play my role, but I was open and I asked for the ball.
Thankfully I made the shot and helped us win the game,” Sebastian Sandoval said.

The Titans then received news that qualified for the playoffs for the first time in program history.
For their accomplishment they got play against #1 seed Central City Value who gave the Titans a
lesson they would not forget a 96-12 drubbing. But as the saying goes “We’ve only just begun.”
With four of five starters starters returning in 2016-2017 the Titans had raised expectations.

Sebastian Sandoval and Brandon Chavarria both were inserted in the starting line-up from the outset
of the season. The tandem who had started to forge a strong bond helped lead the team to the first
double-digit win season with 14 as the Titans finished second place in the North Valley League and
not only qualified for the playoffs, but earned their first playoff home game.

The season had many memorable games the first one coming when Chavarria who was battling a
nasty stomach flu stepped up in the second half of a two-point victory by scoring 16 points to lead
the Titans back from a 14-point deficit. Sebastian Sandoval then helped the Titans to defeat rising
league power Valor Academy by taking a late charge to stop a fast-break that would have given
Valor the game. Instead Chavarria took the ball to the basket on the last possession and was fouled.
He made one of two free throws to win the game for CCHS.

However, the most memorable game was again senior night and this was the coming out party for
Kevin Sandoval and Alex Tarax who were both pressed into service because senior David Arreola
only playing limited minutes due to bronchitis. The tandem only scored four points combined, but
their defense and hustle helped lead the Titans to a two-point victory.

The playoffs again were a disappointment as the Titans were destroyed by Rivera High 60-18. These
two playoff losses stuck in the minds of the Fab Five going into their junior year. New head coach
David Rice started the season naming Chavarria, Sebastian Sandoval, and Steven Jones as the Titans
Tri-Captains due to their leadership and grit they had shown in their first two seasons in the
program.

The Titans had an up-and-down season earning some big wins, but also suffering some tough losses,
but throughout it all Chavarria, Sandoval, and Jones were the glue that was keeping the team
together.

“I learned a lot in those first couple of seasons from the older guys. I realized to be a captain you not
only had to be a leader on the court, but off the court as well,” Chavarria said. “David Aparicio our
captain my freshman year taught me a lot especially how to play without fear and never be afraid to
attack the basket.

The Titans again qualified for the playoffs for a third year in a row where they faced one of their
nemesis CALS High School who had beaten the Titans five straight times in three years. Make it six
straight as the Titans despite playing hard lost by five points which ended their season.

“It was tough to end our junior year like that. We knew we were better than CALS, but we just
couldn’t close out the game, but it motivated us to prepare even harder for our senior year,”
Chavarria said.

Both Brandon and Sebastian averaged double-figures their junior year and also had six plus
rebounds each and three plus assists per game. For their efforts Brandon and Sebastian made first
and second team all-league respectively. Chavarria had garnered second team honors in his
sophomore year as well.

At the beginning of their senior year the coaching staff of David Rice, Ronnie Reyes (2016 LCHS
Grad), and Kellen Smith (CHCS Basketball Player 2009-2011) got Brandon, Sebastian, Steven,
Alex, Kevin, and three-year team member Evan Ballesteros together for a Senior Dinner. The
purpose of the meeting was to set goals for the season and make a plan on how to accomplish them
while also tightening the bond of the group going in.

The senior year for Chavarria and Jones unfortunately got off to a rough start as they both suffered
pre-season injuries that forced them to miss the first month of the season. When they returned the
Titans started to come together thanks to the senior leadership. The first goal was to finally defeat
CALS. On December 17th, the Titans got their chance and thanks to a strong defensive effort by
Alex and Steven, clutch shooting by both Kevin and Sebastian Sandoval, and a big 4th quarter by
Brandon the Titans were able to take a one-point victory. After Christmas the Titans got to big wins
over higher division programs University Prep and Firebaugh setting up their first meeting with
Lakeview High a team the Titans had never beaten in 12 tries. This was a big goal the seniors had
set for the team to finally end this streak.

Led by Chavarria’s 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals, and Sebastian Sandoval’s 12
points and 6 rebounds, and six points and four rebounds from Kevin Sandoval, with Jones and Tarax
again providing the defensive effort the Titans did indeed end the “Lakeview Curse” with a 53-46.
“It was a very special night for us to finally beat Lakeview, it proved that we had arrived as a team
and others should take notice,” Chavarria said. “Winning these big games were great, but this group
is not done yet. The younger guys are going to keep it going the next couple of years.”

Sebastian Sandoval agreed with his friend and teammate. “It was very special to make history this
year by accomplishing so much,” Sandoval said. “I know next year we are going to be even better.
This next group will be ready to shine.”

The Titans were not done yet as they rolled into the playoffs once again determined to finally
breakthrough in the playoffs and get a win. The opponent the Titans played was Larchmont Charter
and the Titans jumped out to as much as an 18-point lead in the first half. Down the stretch
Chavarria and Sebastian Sandoval made huge three pointers and clinched the game with foul shots.
Chavarria had a triple-double 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 steals. Sebastian Sandoval had 13
points and 8 rebounds. Alex Tarax had seven points and four rebounds off the bench and Evan
Ballesteros had 3 points and six rebounds as the Titans ended their playoff drought with a 62-52
victory.

Unfortunately the Titans season came to close in the quarterfinals losing 65-54 to the eventually
champions Math and Science College Prep. However, the season had been a great success for
Community Charter and it was because of the bond and effort of the six seniors leading the way.
“These are my guys, we’ve been through a lot together in four years at Community Charter. Having
them at my side helped take the pressure off me to have to do so much,” Chavarria said. “Our bond
got stronger each year and it helped us to achieve the success we did this year.”

Sebastian Sandoval said the bond both at school and court was the key to the Titans success.
“That bond we (the seniors) had was special. It starts off the court and continues on the court,”
Sandoval said. “The friendship we have is something I will take with me after I leave here.”

With success comes special accolades and three of the seniors garnered post-season awards. Steven
Jones made 2nd team all-league which was quite a turnaround from a player who averaged less than
five minutes a game his first two seasons. Sebastian Sandoval also received high honors being
named 1st team all-league for the first time in his four years.

Brandon Chavarria though needed a wheelbarrow to take home all his hardware. Brandon was
named first-team All-North Valley League for the second straight season. He was also chosen as
League MVP, the first Titan to earn that honor in basketball. Finally Brandon was selected to both
the first team All LA City, becoming the first Titan to gain this honor. He was also chosen to
participate in both the LA City All-Star Game and the War on the Floor All-Star Game, which head
coach David Rice was also chosen to coach the East All-Star Team.

Brandon scored 14 points and dished out 10 assists in the War on the Floor All-Star Game hitting
four of six three pointers to help his East Squad win by three points.

“It was a great experience to play with all of those great players from other schools,” Chavarria said.
“It was kind of crazy to be honest to be selected to play in these games. It something you only dream
of doing growing up and it was special to actually be able to do it. It’s truly an honor to be chosen to
represent our team in those games.”

Not only did this team achieve great success on the court, but in the classroom as well. Five of the
six seniors will graduate with GPA’s of 3.0 or better with Sebastian and Kevin Sandoval both
achieving over a 4.0 GPA (4.04 GPA through the 1st Semester). Sebastian will be attending Cal,
with Kevin attending UC Santa Cruz. Steven Jones was accepted into 12 different colleges and has
narrowed his choices down to Xavier University (Louisiana) and Howard University in D.C. (Both
are HBCU’s).

Tarax will also attend a four-year university, most likely CSUN. Chavarria is currently pursuing his
dream of playing college basketball as he is taking part in Pasadena City College Spring/Summer
Workouts.

In the end looking back on their four years and what they have accomplished both Sebastian’s and
Brandon had similar yet different perspectives.

“I knew the talent was there in the beginning, but we had to learn to win as a team and our bonding
together as one group helped us to accomplish great things this year,” Chavarria said. “I’m thankful
for everything, I’ve learned a lot playing here these four years. I’ve grown up tremendously by
playing for this program. I expect great things in the future we are going to continue to build a
dynasty here.”

“Being here at CCHS has been special, I have really built a bond with all my teammates, It helped
me to become a better version of myself and helped me to grow as a person and a player by being
here,” Sandoval said.

Chavarria wanted to leave the future Titan players with a special message, “There is two types of
people in the world. There is people who dream about being great and then there is those people who
wake up every morning and work hard to be great. If you’re passionate about this work your butt off
and see what goes on from there.”

Sandoval went even further with his message to the Future Titans.
“You have so much untapped potential that you don’t even know,” Sandoval said. “If you keep
trying and practicing even when no one is watching you can’t be stopped.”