Even with a healthy and experienced squad, Nipomo’s road through the Mountain League and CIF Central Section playoffs would be a tough one to travel. 

Titans coach Chris Litvinchuk didn’t have a healthy team and his players didn’t always have tons of experience.

Still, the Nipomo’s girls basketball team made it through Mountain League play and qualified for the Central Section Division 2 playoffs. Once in the playoffs, the Titans made history.

Nipomo rolled through the Div. 2 bracket, winning three road games to capture the school’s first ever CIF title in girls basketball. 

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Litvinchuk guided his team to a blowout win at Porterville Monache in the first round of the playoffs and a 50-48 upset of top-seeded Bakersfield Ridgeview in the semifinals. In the CIF title game, Nipomo traveled to Paso Robles to face Ocean League champion Paso Robles. 

In that game, Nipomo came together late to pull out a 44-39 win.

Three playoff games. Three road trips. Three wins. That added up to one CIF championship.

That playoff run also helped Litvinchuk land the All-Area Coach of the Year award in his first season at the helm in Nipomo. Litvinchuk has been selected as the All-Area Coach of the Year by the staff at the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News. The All-Area recognition encompasses the Times’ coverage area: Northern Santa Barbara County and Southern San Luis Obispo County. 

“They just embraced it,” Litvinchuk said of his team’s road-warrior mentality during the playoff run. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group to keep their whole demeanor and attitude and their composure. They were in a different situation that had a lot of adversity, being on the road. We talked about it. Your intensity and attitude can travel with you, your defense can travel with you. No matter the environment that we go in to, the girls continued to play with maximum effort. It showed those last three games and in the last two weeks of the season.”

Litvinchuk certainly had some competition this spring as four area girls basketball teams won CIF titles in a delayed and truncated spring season. 

Desiree Hitch led her Warriors to a Mountain League co-championship and the Division 1 title. St. Joseph coach Analise Riezebos piloted the Knights to the CIF Central Section Division 3 title and Orcutt Academy’s Tom Robb captained the Spartans to the Division 4 crown. Those are four Mountain League teams.

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“I’m glad we had a tougher league. I think that really helped us get ready for the playoffs,” Litvinchuk said. “We made some adjustments in games, we had game plans for the three playoff teams. There were some lineup changes that we did make, based on match-ups. The match-ups dictated my game plans. A couple of those things changed, but what the girls did was have a laser focus throughout the playoffs. It was just special. Their on-court communication flourished and they just bought into the game plan. We just kept building momentum.”

Litvinchuk got the nod after Nipomo won the three road playoff games and knocked off the top seed. The Titans did it without some of their top players. Sophomore Makennah Simonson, who made the All-Mountain League First Team as a freshman, didn’t play a minute this year. Clarissa Simonson was limited to two games. Junior Gracie Gutierrez also missed most of the season and Kat Anderson and Leah Miller missed some time. 

Anderson was the lone senior to consistently contribute to the team.

The entire 2021 All-Area Team for girls basketball will be published this week. Righetti senior Alex Paquet was selected as the All-Area MVP. The All-Area Offensive Player of the Year, the All-Area Defensive Player of the Year and the First and Second teams will be published this week. 

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