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Nobles' Roper is Coach of the Year!

BOYS BASKETBALL: Nobles' Roper is Coach of the Year

By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/23/2009 San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Nogales High School boys basketball coach Ricky Roper soaked it in all year and enjoyed his last hurrah with four-year varsity members Randal Guillory, Aaron De Anda, Gabriel Gamboa and three-year players Frazier Sheffer and Rhey Olmedo.

The Nobles won their second consecutive San Antonio League crown and advanced to the CIF-SS Division III-A semifinals, their best finish since 1995, and the second year in a row they reached at least the quarterfinals.

It was Roper's third league title since arriving from Arizona in 2003 and it brought back memories of the Nobles' glory days.

"We expected to be in a position to have success," Roper said. "We wanted to go to the championship. It was disappointing to not get there and go all the way, but when you sit back and look it, it was a great season.

"In the 1980's and 90's they had a lot of good teams here and built a great tradition. It was great to bring that back and put Nogales basketball back on the map."

The Nobles went undefeated in league and finished 24-8. For his efforts, Roper has been selected the Tribune boys basketball Coach of the Year, an award he shares with assistants Stan Longino, Jason Sadler and Fernando Garcia.

"Those guys (assistants) have been with me all six years, they're my brothers and we've done this together," Roper said. "Anytime you have a season like we had, there will be awards at the end of the season.

"It was a pleasure to coach this
group. It was a special season and it's been a special ride. The seniors leaving will be my friends for life. I can't imagine what it's going to be like next year without them."

The Nobles began the season as one of the area's best teams and cemented that status with a 75-68 win over Damien to win the Nogales Tournament in December.

There also was a big win over Orange Lutheran in the North Orange County Classic and they went undefeated in league.

In the Division III-A playoffs, the Nobles opened with a 75-61 win over San Marcos, then earned victories over West Torrance (73-70) and Palm Springs (50-47) before losing to Anaheim Canyon (67-56) in the semifinals. Canyon went on to defeat Santa Margarita for the division title.

"Those playoff games are going to be with me forever," Roper said. "The games that stand out the most are the second- and third-round games. Both were real close and came down to the wire. It was fun watching our guys dig deep and pull them out."

After being selected to coach the Tribune team in the sixth annual Tribune/Star-News All-Star Classic at Azusa Pacific on April 4, Roper gets a final opportunity to coach Guillory, De Anda and Gamboa.

"What I love about those guys is that they're all gym rats and love to work on their game," Roper said. "When I played basketball that's how I was. We have a lot in common because we share that passion.

"It will be great to coach them again. I'm looking forward to it, it's a fun way to end it."

It's not just those three he'll miss. There also are Sheffer and Olmedo, who were the hard-hat guys who helped them become so successful.

"Any program that has success has individuals like that on their team that don't get as much individual publicity, but put in just as much time and sacrifice for the team," Roper said.

"It's going to be weird not coaching these guys anymore. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, to have six seasons in a row like we've had, and four with this group of seniors. I'm lucky and fortunate to have coached them."
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