PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Brandon Benjamin, Canyon, So.
It was a willpower basket.
In the final seconds of a tie game in the CIF Southern Section boys basketball quarterfinals, Brandon Benjamin got a one-handed rebound of his own miss and banked the ball off the glass and through the hoop as the buzzer sounded to give Canyon a 58-56 win over JSerra. The victory sent his team to the Division 2AA semifinals and clinched a berth in the CIF State tournament.
That moment exemplified Benjamin’s play all season, and he has been chosen by the Register as the Orange County player of the year.
Using his quick and powerful moves around the basket, the 6-foot-5 sophomore played like a 6-9 senior and averaged 23 points and nine rebounds a game.
He was the Crestview League player of the year, was named All-CIF for the second year in a row, and he surpassed 1,000 career points this season.
“The game-winner against JSerra was a big one,” Benjamin said. “Scoring 36 points against Villa Park, too, and my breakaway dunk against Brea Olinda for my 1,000th career point.”
Benjamin, who was first-team All-County as a freshman, scored 32 points in the win over JSerra and 48 points over Canyon’s two games against its top league competitor, Foothill. With Canyon missing two likely starters because of injuries, he faced constant double- and triple-teams.
He made 55% of his shots, and in the CIF-SS playoffs he scored 89 points over three games.
“Brandon wants to win everything,” said Canyon coach Nate Harrison. “He’s a matchup nightmare at the high school level. He’s so strong and physical, he’s able to score at will around the basket, and if a bigger guy is on him he can put the ball on the floor and go around him.”
This month he transferred to Mater Dei and attended his first classes there Tuesday.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Steve Garrett, Tesoro
Tesoro won a county-high 31 boys basketball games this season, won the South Coast League championship and won a CIF Southern Section championship.
It was Steve Garrett’s 22nd season as Tesoro’s coach, and he is the Register’s boys basketball coach of the year.
The Titans beat Orange Lutheran 54-35 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA championship game. In the CIF Southern California Regional Division II playoffs, Tesoro lost by one point to Orange Lutheran in the semifinals.
Garrett, 49, said the players were a joy to coach.
“Their top quality was how much they cared for each other,” Garrett said. “In this day and age it’s usually ‘look at me’ but with them it was ‘look at us and see what we’ve accomplished.’”
Tesoro head coach Steve Garrett gives his players a pep talk between periods in the semifinals of the Beach Bash Tournament against Los Alamitos at Corona del Mar High School in Corona del Mar on Friday, December 9, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
ALL-COUNTY FIRST TEAM
Kaiden Bailey, Crean Lutheran, Fr., G
Bailey was MVP of the Empire League and led the Saints to a 10-0 league record.
Brandon Benjamin, Canyon, So., F
The Orange County player of the year.
Carson Brown, Tesoro, Sr., G
Brown led the Titans to the CIF-SS Division 2AA championship and was the division’s player of the year. He was also the South Coast League player of the year.
Carter Bryant, Sage Hill, Jr., F
He was chosen for the All-CIF Southern Section Division 4A team. Among his many highlights, he scored 19 points with 12 rebounds in a win over El Modena in the Division 4A quarterfinals.
Zach Davidson, Mater Dei, Sr., F
Davidson averaged 18 points a game and was named to the All-Trinity League and All-CIF Division 1 first teams.
Aidan Fowler, JSerra, Jr., G
An All-Trinity League first-team selection, Fowler scored 27 points in a league game against Orange Lutheran.
Brannon Martinsen, Mater Dei, Fr., F
Martinsen averaged 12 points and five rebounds and was the only freshman on the All-CIF Division 1 and All-Trinity League first teams.
Sebastian Rancik, JSerra, Jr., F
Rancik was All-Trinity League first team and All-CIF Division 1. He scored 20 points with seven rebounds in a win over St. John Bosco and scored 29 points with 17 rebounds in a win over Crean Lutheran.
Rockwell Reynolds, Santa Margarita, Sr., F
He was an All-Trinity League first-team player. Reynolds scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half of the Eagles’ first win over Mater Dei in 18 years.
Parker Strauss, Pacifica Christian, Sr., G
Strauss was the leader for a team that won the San Joaquin League championship and advanced to the CIF State Division II championship game.
Isaiah Bernard, Foothill, Jr., G
Liam Gray, Los Alamitos, So., G
Efe Gucoglu, Capistrano Valley, Sr., G
Bowen Hammer, Fairmont Prep, Sr., F
Collin Haugh, Dana Hills, So., G
Dylan Hugues, Edison, Sr., G
Zion Paleo, Orange Lutheran, So., G
Arik Mawien, Capistrano Valley Christian, Sr., F
Trent Minter, Los Alamitos, So., F
Yanmife Oke, Sonora, Sr., G
Carlo Billings, Foothill, Sr., G
John Gazzaniga, Orange Lutheran, So., F
Colin Huang, Portola, Sr., G
Brady Karich, Mater Dei, Jr, G
Connor Leonard, Canyon, Sr., G
Maper Maker, Fairmont Prep, So. F
Blake Manning, Tesoro, Sr., G
Cameron Mercadel, Orangewood Academy, Jr., G
Drew Rodriguez, El Modena, Sr., G
EJ Spillman, Pacifica Christian, So., G
Alier Alier, Orangewood Academy, Jr., F
Cooper Bladow, El Dorado, Sr., G
Dylan Gomez, Crean Lutheran, So., G
Brayden Kayman, Santa Margarita, Fr., F
Jaxson LaGraffe, Esperanza, Sr., G
Ryan McElroy, Aliso Niguel, Sr., F
Cameron McNamee, Santa Margarita, Jr., G
Eli Nyeazi, Tustin, Sr., G
Grayson Sinek, La Habra, So., G
Markus Toscano, Loara, Jr., F
Josh Beaty named boys basketball coach at Fountain Valley
Canyon basketball standout Brandon Benjamin transfers to Mater Dei
Sammy Howlin helped lift Fullerton College to state title after agonizing recovery from car crash
Moe Golshani won’t return as Mission Viejo boys basketball coach
Orange County girls athlete of the week: Tiana To, Marina