High school sports

New Pacifica High gymnasium makes modern an old tradition

MIKE BUENAFE, boys’ freshman basketball coach at Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, was selected to take the first shot in the new gymnasium. PHS is part of the Garden Grove Unified School District (Orange County Tribune photos by Christopher Abdelmalek),

By Christopher Abdelmalek

Every journey starts with a single step. For the new gymnasium at Pacifica High School, it begins with a single basket.

Repeating a ceremony first held in 1965, the new Mariner gym was initiated on Saturday by having freshman basketball coach Mike Buenafe take the first hoops shot in the facility.

That’s an echo of his father, Jeff Buenafe, christening the original PHS gym in 1965.

“We got the call to come down to the gym and I was told I was going to take the first shot,” recalls Jeff, who was 11 at the time. His father, Al Buenafe, was the first principal at PHS. “Luckily, I made it.”

Keeping the tradition alive, Mike was tapped to repeat the act at the new facility. “I don’t like the attention to be on me,” said Mike, “but this was something special. It’s great for the players, great for the school, and great for the community.”

The new gymnasium is a state-of-the art building that is an 18,250-square foot multi-function facility that houses three full-size basketball courts and can convert to nine volleyball courts. The gym allows for seating for up to 1,584 people and includes a lobby, locker rooms, coach’s offices, equipment storage and more.

Divider curtains will allow for multiple events to be held at once.

But that means saying goodbye to the old place, which will be demolished this summer. “It’s a bittersweet moment,” said Mike, who played basketball for the Mariners and was graduated in 2004. “The [old] gym was full of great memories, but the roof was also falling in, and the floorboards were all messed up. This one is much nicer and allows for so much more activity for the students.”

The “old” gym does have quite a history.  In 1994, the boys’ varsity basketball team, coached by Bob Becker, won a CIF Southern Section championship and advanced all the way to the state title game before losing.

More recently, guided by coach David Friedman, the M’s have made the CIF-SS playoffs in 18 of 20 seasons, including 15 in a row at one point. Under Friedman, Mariner teams have won four league crowns and advanced to CIF-SS quarterfinals twice.

This year’s team is off to a 6-5 start and won its inaugural game in the new palace, defeating Whitney High of Cerritos by the score of 43-31 on Saturday.

Oh, and Mike made his shot, too.

THE CURRENT MARINER boys’ varsity basketball team with a balloon anchor.

Leave a Reply