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Over the last month, the word “congratulations” has been tossed around frequently inside the Village Dental Center in Vandenberg – where Cabrillo girls basketball coach Jared McCune is a dentist by day.

Patients and co-workers have showered McCune with praise – after the head coach guided the Conquistadores to the programs’ first ever CIF Southern Section title game appearance and historic first state playoff run.

And the man they call “Doctor” and “Coach” inside the dental office is the Lee Central Coast Newspapers All-Area Coach of the Year.

McCune says that positive outpouring has been non-stop since the season ended for the Conqs.

“It just keeps coming,” McCune said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think a patient of mine or someone in the community says something to me about what we’ve done. It’s really satisfying to hear that – that in our small community, people recognize the accomplishments of these youth in this community. I’m grateful for the support we received – and I think the girls have heard something similar.”

McCune and Cabrillo breezed through the Los Padres League once again at 14-0, and then piled on more victories in the CIF-SS Division 3AA playoffs before falling to Downey Warren for the section title.

But there were road blocks that McCune and the Conqs had to go through – one of them included his top post player and daughter.

Britney McCune fell down hard and was helped off the court during CHS’s 43-35 victory in December over eventual PAC 8 League champion Righetti at CHS. The thought of Britney leaving the floor left the head coach wondering and asking, 'What would become of CHS with one of the area’s best scorers now out for the season?'

While Cabrillo took the loss of McCune hard, the head coach started to see players lift each other up and play for their fallen comrade – even surpassing McCune’s expectations.

“I never thought we would make it to the CIF finals. I’ll be honest I never thought we would get there,” McCune said. “That was something that I thought was beyond, as a head coach, we were capable of. With Brittney going down, we thought maybe not so much.”

McCune and the Conqs also dealt with another significant blow as Kiki Dial, known for her defensive ability, went down with a near similar knee injury during CHS’s pursuit of an undefeated LPL season. But like their approach toward the McCune setback, the Conqs rallied around one another and began to topple Orange County and Los Angeles County playoff teams in the section playoffs.

McCune credits the intelligence of his team for helping navigate through the season.

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“I think just because of experience wise, it was a very high IQ (from this team). We always felt we were able to build and the girls were able to pick up on that,” McCune said. “It (having intelligence) allows you to do more things. That’s something we try to instill in the girls – to not be good at just one thing or be good in just one position (on the court). It’s to understand everybody’s position on the court and where they’re supposed to be so they can gel. That’s what makes a great team – recognizing where girls are and knowing where your teammates will be and making the right decision at the right time.”

Not only did CHS adopt a “next player up” attitude to ride through the CIF-SS playoffs, but McCune says he was backed up by what he called an equally knowledgeable coaching staff.

“The credit goes to a lot of different people. It’s not a one-man show, for sure,” McCune said. “My assistant coaches Dan Duffy, John Daley and Travis Jenkins have been right there the whole time. It’s a product of all of us. Of course, the girls who played for us also deserve credit because this season was very special. The run we made was pretty special.”

And because of that run, McCune admits he had to change up his work schedule – even rescheduling scheduled appointments with his patients.

Now there’s this next adjustment for McCune and his staff: Moving on without All-Area Most Valuable Player Erin Jenkins and the rest of the senior class that included McCune, top long range shooting option Alyssa Stewart and key reserve Amani Childress. Plus, CHS will no longer have a vice grip on the LPL, as Cabrillo officially moves into the more competitive Channel League next season where Santa Barbara High, Dos Pueblos and former LPL mates Santa Ynez and Lompoc now await.

Yet, McCune believes that his next crop of varsity girls are capable of reaching for the ceiling – and perhaps add another CIF run.

“Having been where we’ve been now, we know we can be there (CIF and state),” McCune said. “We have some special players leaving us this year and it’ll be hard to replace them, but that’s OK. We’re so proud of who they become. If we have similar success like this year, than that’s gravy on top.”

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