Gonzales, Pyon strike gold at 65th Oregon Sports Awards
Clackamas High School's Elijah Gonzales and Samuel Pyon each went home with an impressive piece of hardware Sunday night.
Gonzales and Pyon found their way into the winners' circle during the 65th Oregon Sports Awards at the Tiger Woods Center on the Nike World Headquarters campus in Beaverton.
This year's Oregon Sports Awards had 43 winners, including the top male and female athletes from all 12 Oregon School Activities Association-sanctioned sports, plus boys' and girls' lacrosse.
Gonzales was recognized as Male Prep Basketball Player of the Year, adding to a list of honors that included Mt. Hood Conference Player of the Year and OSAA Class 6A Player of the Year.
Gonzales, a 5-foot-9 senior point guard, averaged 25.3 points, 6.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 steals a game in leading the Class 6A runner-up Cavaliers to a 24-5 record and their first appearance in the championship final since 1994.
"This is exciting," said Gonzales, who set a Class 6A state tournament scoring record with 92 points in three games. "I never thought I would ever get something like this. Just to be here right now is something special and shows that all the hard work is paying off."
Last week, Gonzales signed a National Letter of Intent to play NCAA Division I basketball at St. Peter's University in Jersey City, New Jersey.
"My team and everyone on it helped me to get here, so it is a great way to cap off my high school career," he said. "A lot of other players put in a lot of work to help me, I put in a lot of work to help them, and then the coaches … this award definitely took a team effort."
Pyon was honored as the Male Prep Golfer of the Year after he shot even-par 144 for a three-shot victory over Jesuit's Danny Terrell at the OSAA Class 6A boys' golf state championships at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.
Pyon, a sophomore, shot 2-under 70 and rallied from three shots off the pace after an opening-round 74, becoming the first Clackamas golfer to claim medalist honors at the state tournament since Jack Schneider tied for first in 1975 at Glendoveer Golf Course.
"I never thought I'd be a finalist for this," Pyon said. "This is amazing. I was shocked. I was trying to get ready to give a speech and I panicked a little bit, but I'm proud of how it turned out."
Host Neil Everett of ESPN's SportsCenter brought Pyon and the other two finalists -- Isaac Buerger of Ridgeview in Redmond and Craig Ronne of Klamath Union -- on stage for a quick interview before announcing the winner and presenting Pyon with his trophy.
Everett then asked Pyon to name his "dream golf foursome -- you and three others."
Said Pyon: "Let's see, probably Rory McElroy, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson."
So, where does the Oregon Sports Award rank among the other awards Pyon has won?
"Probably top," Pyon said. "I didn't know that this was such a big production, but … once I stepped through these doors, I was like, 'Man, this is a big event.'"
Everett and various local sports celebrities presented the awards during the two-hour stage show, recognizing outstanding achievements during the 2016-17 school year.
South Salem's Evin Westbrook was named the Female Prep Basketball Player of the Year, earning the nod over fellow-finalists Aleah Goodman of La Salle Prep and Bendu Yeaney of St. Mary's Academy.
"This is my third time being here, and every year it's really cool to be here with a bunch of amazing athletes," said Goodman, the Oregon State-bound guard and a three-time Class 5A girls' basketball Player of the Year.
West Linn's Tim Tawa was the night's biggest winner, lugging home three trophies as the Prep Football Player of the Year, Prep Baseball Player of the Year, and the Johnny Carpenter 6A-5A Prep Athlete of the Year.
Clackamas' Caden Hennessy and Chruchill's Brock Townsend were the other two finalists for the Prep Baseball Player of the Year award.
The Oregon Sports Awards began in 1948 as the Bill Hayward Banquet of Champions. The now-defunct Oregon Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association started the awards program and ran it for many years. It wound up being discontinued, but after five years the event was reborn in 2001 with a new name — Oregon Sports Awards.
At that time, various awards categories were added, and the event turned into an ESPYs-style stage show rather than a banquet with a keynote speaker. A statewide panel of sports media, athletic directors and experts selected the nominees and winners from around the state and at all levels.