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Save Our Youth basketball centered on team spirit

Team featuring several newcomers to the sport takes second in its league, celebrates.

April 30, 2014|By Matt Morrison
  • The Save Our Youth basketball team reached the finals of the Newport-Mesa YMCA 12- to 14-year-old division and finished second. The SOY team featured, from left: Julian Ribas, Sharon Ozuna, Rafa Hernandez, Eduardo Iniesta (Coach Eddie), Daniel Carrillo, Adrian Barajas and Vanessa Cornejo.
The Save Our Youth basketball team reached the finals… (Courtesy of Elaine…)

Like most Saturday afternoons at the Newport-Mesa YMCA, the basketball court squeaks with starts, stops, and misdirection of hard-rubber soles on varnished hardwood. On a mid-April day there was a little more spring in each step.

As a championship game unfolded between two co-ed teams of young teenagers, it became clear there were nothing but winners in the gym, regardless of the final score.

The Save Our Youth (SOY) Jaguars of Costa Mesa didn't take this title game but were satisfied just the same. The underage, undersized, underdog crew from the youth center were thrilled to finish second in the league after winning only one game the previous season. After all, look how far the program has come.

"All these students, it was the first time playing basketball," Eduardo Iniestra said of the team's first season under a volunteer coach. Iniestra took over this spring, a logical progression of his part-time responsibilities at SOY. One of only two paid staff members at the non-profit, "Coach Eddie" runs the health and fitness programs in addition to his official role as the arts and music program coordinator.


"This time around they learned from it. I'm big in to basketball, so I coached them myself. I just let them have fun, but at the same time, I point out the little things that matter. And the second season we were able to make it to second place! So, I'm very proud of them."

"It brings them a lot of joy, a lot of happiness, to be able to participate," says Operations Manager Silvia Rosales, "not only in sports outside of school, but also as a team."

The SOY Jaguars are sponsored by the YMCA in a league for 12- to 14-year-olds with a roster much younger and smaller than most. Without enough older players, Coach Eddie has several 10- and 11-year-olds on the squad along with four girls, more than any other team in the league.

But size can be deceiving.

Not all are noted on the roster, but the SOY program is a much bigger team than first meets the eye. A gathering of support at the organization's annual SOY Fiesta Friday evening is a better indication. More than a hundred benefactors from surrounding communities paid up to $75 a ticket for the fundraiser dinner and silent auction held at the Halecrest Club in Costa Mesa.

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