The final featured two productive, decorated players who fought their way to get there. 

It also featured truckloads of votes, and an outright winner.

Gage Gomez has been voted Player of the Decade. 

The former Arroyo Grande High standout edged St. Joseph High grad Keith Datu to claim that title.

After a week of voting, Gomez pulled away with nearly 10,000 total votes in the round. Gomez defeated Datu 9,979 to 6,190. The final round featured 16,169 votes when the poll closed at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Gomez was nominated by multiple current and former Central Coast head basketball coaches. 

"Being recognized as Player of the Decade is truly an honor," Gomez said Wednesday. "Growing up, I idolized a lot these players and to even be considered on the same level as them is humbling. Although I still have much more to prove to eventually achieve great things like some of the guys on this list have already done."

The former Eagle sharp-shooter is now a freshman on the men's basketball team at UC Santa Barbara. As a member of the class of 2020, Gomez looked up to many of the players who were nominated as Player of the Decade finalists. He hopes to have left a legacy at AGHS, and create a different one at UCSB, that other young players can look up to.

"I hope to inspire and motivate the up-and-coming high school athletes of our area, just like the previous athletes ahead of me have," he said. "Having so many voters is a blessing, to have that many people take time out of their day to submit a vote shows the strength and support that our communities bring.

"I am always appreciative of the Central Coast and the people within it."

"You don’t run into a guy that size that is that smooth and that athletic," former Arroyo Grande High coach Brad Lachemann once said of Teixeira. "He's been a huge kid ever since he was a freshman. He worked his way into it strength-wise, but he was still agile at short. Obviously, he’s always had a good arm and he just put all that stuff together."

Gomez said the support was definitely felt throughout the multiple-week tournament. Gomez entered the contest as the 10th seed and won the opening round against Case Bruton, the seventh seed. He then edged former Cabrillo High star Aaron Abayari in the next round before beating St. Joseph graduate JoJo Walker in the semifinals. 

Gomez was one of the most consistent performers throughout the contest. He received about 15,000 votes through all four rounds. Before winning the final over Datu, Gomez beat Walker 1,830 to 785 in the semifinals. He cruised past Abayari 1,481 to 656 in the quarterfinals after he edged Case Bruton 932-314 in the first round. 

"I definitely felt the support and heard the excitement from the people around me," Gomez said. "Friends and family wishing me luck, submitting a vote, and following through the whole bracket speaks to the amount of people who believed in me."

Gomez, a 6-foot-3 guard, led the Eagles to the CIF State SoCal Division 3 regional title last March. He and teammate Robert Hutchens were named the Mountain League co-MVPs last year.

Gomez averaged 21 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game, earning the league MVP honors and the All-Area Offensive Player of the Year award. He was a three-year starter and two-time league champ at AGHS. He was named First Team All-Mountain League in all of his final three seasons at Arroyo Grande. 

"Looking back at my time at AG goes beyond just the memories of winning basketball games," Gomez said. "It’s the fans and the community selling out a gym on any given night. It’s the little kids shooting at halftime and after the game.

"The chemistry our teams had allowed us to have so much fun playing with one another and resulted in winning games. Playing at AG made me realize that with all the work that my team and I have put in, we achieved great success and I hope that success pushes and motivates upcoming teams and athletes to create the best version of themselves. Our greatest moments as a team came from the work we put in, my favorite moment will be reminiscing on the journey it took to get to our destination -- winning!"

Datu was also one of the top vote-getters through the competition, receiving nearly 10,000 total votes. 

He beat former Cabrillo star David Terrones 1,108 to 690 in the semifinals. Datu edged former Righetti standout Cameron Walker, who entered as the No. 1 seed 1,805 to 1,303 in the quarterfinals. Datu started the competition with a 638 to 306 win over former AGHS great Matt Willkomm.

The bracket started with 16 former high school basketball stars who played from the 2009-10 season through the 2019-20 season, which was Gomez's last.

The 16 nominees were Gomez, Datu, JoJo Walker, Cameron Walker, Terrones, Abayari, Bruton, Willkomm, former AGHS standouts Bryan Smith and Brent VanderVeen, Cabrillo's LeAndrew Knight and Chad Brodhead, Mission Prep grad Quinton Adlesh, Righetti's Ryan McGready, Atascadero graduate Robbie Berwick and St. Joseph's Gabrys Sadaunykas.

The Times polled current and former coaches to develop its list of nominees for Player of the Decade. 

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