Jasper Johnson liked watching television as a boy with his father, Golden Globe-winning actor Don Johnson.
But they weren’t tuning into Miami Vice re-runs.
“He always liked basketball,” Jasper said of his dad, a world champion powerboat racer in his younger days and currently starring in the movie “Knives Out.”
“We always watched it when I was growing up as a kid,” Jasper continued. “He’s definitely my biggest fan. He always likes going to my games. He loves it. My mom, too.”
They especially liked the last one. Jasper’s basket with just 1.1 seconds remaining gave Santa Barbara High a dramatic 45-43 victory over cross-town rival San Marcos at the SBCC Sports Pavilion on Friday.
The bouncy, junior guard scored 15 points and was honored with the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table’s Male Athlete of the Week Award during Monday’s press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza café. His parents were among those in attendance.
“It’s definitely everyone’s dream to hit a game-winner against the cross-town rival,” Johnson said. “There was a lot of adrenalin and a lot of fun just playing in that game … Always.”
The play — an inbounds lob from point guard Stephen Davis — wasn’t actually in the Dons’ playbook.
“We’ve never even practiced it,” he said. “Greg (Blessing, assistant coach) drew it up then and there, and we went with it and executed it.”
Injury and illness have kept Johnson out of plenty of practices and games this season.
“Jasper has had kind of a rough year,” head coach Corey Adam said. “He played two games. Got hurt. Missed five games. Came back and played a couple of games. Got sick. Missed a bunch more games.
“Friday was his first game back in probably about three weeks. He only had a couple practices in there between, so it’s really good to get him back in the flow.”
The Dons (10-6, 2-0 Channel League) have already lost more games than all of last year (29-5) when they advanced to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Division 3A playoffs. They return several of the stars from that team including Johnson, Davis, and 6-foot-8 Bryce Warrecker.
“We’re still figuring it out, still trying to figure out our roles as players and just get better every day,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how to compare last year’s team to this year’s team because it’s just different.
“There were a lot of older guys and bigger guys last year. But I feel like we’re a little scrappier this year, and more aggressive.”
Two of the scrappiest — Cole Ekeler and Jackson Gonzales — accompanied Johnson to Monday’s luncheon. Ekeler came with a bruised and cut nose.
“You can see that Cole is willing to stick his nose in there,” Adam said. “That happened on Friday night. He has to battle.
“I don’t think Cole has been healthy all the season. He’s had a quad injury, a floor burn on his elbow. He’s just gets after it and he never makes excuses.”
Gonzales, a three-year starter this fall on Santa Barbara’s CIF finalist football team, is used to physical play. He was also the sixth man on last year’s Channel League championship basketball squad.
“He’s the engine that makes our defense go,” Adam said. “It took him a few games, a couple of weeks, to get out of that football shape. He’s rounding into basketball form now and he’s just the linchpin in our defense.
“He puts on the kind of ball pressure that you just can’t teach.”
Adam expects the team to gel now with players such as Johnson, Ekeler and Gonzales hitting their strides.
“There’s a saying that iron sharpens iron, and not having all our guys in practice has been a little bit of a setback,” he said. “Now that we’re getting healthy at the right time, I think we’re going to get stronger. These guys know it’s all about the defense.”
Many of the Dons have known each other on the basketball court for a decade or more.
“Me and Jackson have played together since fourth grade, and the same with Bryce,” Johnson said. “I stayed playing with Stephen in high school, but I’ve known him for a while – we’ve played against each other since we were little.
“I’ve known most of the guys on my team since I was in elementary school, so we all have good chemistry and we all like each other. We’re all close. It’s going to help us in the long run.”
He also knows Santa Barbara’s basketball history. He was in seventh grade when he followed the Dons’ run to the CIF-SS 2A title in 2016.
“A CIF title has been our goal ever since we were playing as little kids,” Johnson said. “We’d see Bolden (Brace) and those guys win a championship and we’d want to do the same thing.
“It’s been in the back of our minds and it’s definitely a mission for us now.”
San Marcos (9-9, 1-1) showed its ability to match up to the Dons’ Warrecker with the likes of Gideon Van Bogelen and Jeroe Bidlow.
“Both of these guys have done a great job controlling the paint for us when we need them to and doing anything they’re asked,” coach Jelani Hicks said. “They’re going to be very, very crucial to us as we get into these deeper league games.”
Injuries have whittled the roster at Dos Pueblos (5-13, 1-1) to just seven players, prompting coach Joe Zamora to summon two freshmen to the varsity. But he still has players such as Cole Collins and Alex Perez, both juniors, scrapping hard.
“When Cole gets onto the floor, he’s going to get that loose ball for us,” Zamora said. “He gets deflections, he gets rebounds. “He goes after it for the full part of the game.
“And you wouldn’t know it (by his lack of size), but there’ve been games when Alex Perez has been our leading offensive rebounder. His work ethic is second to none.”
Prospects are looking up for Bishop Diego now that two transfers are eligible to play. Tyler Williams has made a major impact in particular in his first three games as a Cardinal.
“Tyler is coming off a 25-point game, following a 20-point game, and then an 11-point one,” assistant coach Jayson Williams said.
He added that “Austin Ziehl has done some scrappy work for us as our only senior … We’re a young team, but we’re trying to piece it together.”
Carpinteria (8-8, 1-1 Citrus Coast League) is benefitting from both the experience of senior Luke Nakasone and youthful exuberance of sophomore Dylan O’Neill, athletic director Pat Cooney said.
“Luke is just a grinder,” he said. “He’s a guy in the middle of the court who gets a lot of the work done.
“Dylan just eats, sleeps, lives, breathes basketball — and it shows with him as our scoring leader at 18 points per game. These are our stars.”
Left-footed A.J. Ranii and Miguel Mondragon have been leading the way for San Marcos.
“A.J. is a spark plug for our team,” said coach Paul McLean, whose Royals opened Channel League play with a pair of ties. “He brings energy, desire, and passion, and that happens in the games as well as in the training.
“Miguel is by far the most consistent leader and leads with action from the field. He works tirelessly and is one of our best attacking players who plays in the back.”
Bishop Diego, which plays host to small-school power Cate today in a crucial league contest, is making a name for itself after last year’s run to the CIF-SS semifinals.
“We’re a better team than we were last year,” said coach Mick Luckhurst, whose sons Adam and Michael are two of the team’s offensive stars.
Playing behind them are center midfielder Michael Romero, center back Daniel Giannini, and goalkeeper Gabe Rodriguez.
“The spine of our team is as strong as any team in probably the city,” Luckhurst said, “which says a lot, because we’ve got a lot of great soccer teams in Santa Barbara.”
Carpinteria earned a “miracle,” 2-1 win despite “limping” into its Citrus Coast League match against powerhouse Santa Paula. Center midfielders Enrique Gutierrez and Steven Zermeno scored the Warriors’ goals.
“They’re actually our only two goal-scorers so far this year,” coach Ryan Warner said. “We feel if we can beat Santa Paula, we can beat anybody in our league.”
San Marcos coach Jen Sotelo wasn’t surprised by Paige Ingram’s shot from midfield which beat rival Santa Barbara last week and earned her the Round Table’s Female Athlete of the Week Award.
“Paige is special,” she said of her senior captain. “She is very, very competitive. It could be during practice, it could be during a game, or it could be in checkers. She wants to win.”
Midfielders Sofia Higgins and Caroline Mikkelson are also making an impact.
“They’re all really good soccer players and they just light up fourth-period practice,” she said.
Dos Pueblos is getting strong defense from goalkeeper Isabella Vazquez and center back Emelia Kling.
“(Vazquez) is able to read the offensive players’ eyes and stop a lot of shots,” Zamora said. “Emelia has the ability to be aggressive on both sides of the field.”
Juniors Cydney Smolnikar and Kenna Mayer are bringing a spark to the team at Carpinteria.
“They really play with a lot of emotion and with their hearts on their sleeves,” coach Lucy Carleton said. “I think they live their lives that way, too.”
Junior captain Logan O’Keefe and senior Jorge Contreras played key roles for Santa Barbara in Wednesday’s “historic” win over San Marcos.
“We lost to them two times previously, but we got two pins from both of these gentlemen,” coach Adrian Macias said. “They had that killer instinct.”