Esperanza's Mark Hill has been selected as the Register's Orange County boys basketball coach of the year. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Orange County Register/SCNG)

Esperanza's Mark Hill is the Orange County boys basketball coach of the year


Different teams have different personalities.

Mark Hill has had a variety of teams, and team personalities, in his 15 seasons as Esperanza's boys basketball coach.

“This year’s team was a quiet group,” Hill said.

This year the Aztecs made a lot of noise, though. They were the only Orange County boys basketball team to win a CIF State championship.

For guiding the Aztecs to the top, Hill is the Register's Orange County boys basketball coach of the year.

Esperanza finished the season with a 30-3 record. The Aztecs went undefeated in the Crestview League and won the league championship. They were 25-1 at the end of the regular season and were selected to play in the elite Open Division of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.

The Aztecs took a 22-game winning streak into the playoffs. The streak was ended by Santa Margarita in the first round.




Esperanza was eliminated from the CIF-SS playoffs in its next game, a loss to Oak Park in the consolation bracket.

Then came another steak in the CIF Southern California Regionals.

The Aztecs beat Dorsey of Los Angeles, Bakersfield and Crossroads of Santa Monica to get to the regionals Division II championship game. They beat Pasadena in the final.

That put Esperanza in the CIF State Championships game. The Aztecs beat Moreau Catholic of Hayward, 72-65, to win the first state boys basketball title in Esperanza history.

Hill knew he had a good team when the Aztecs went to Chicago for a late-November, season-opening tournament. The Tournament of Champions featured Spartanburg Day of South Carolina and its nationally known junior star, Zion Williamson.

“I didn’t know exactly how we’d do against inner-city Chicago teams and some of the other great teams they had there,” Hill said. “I’d hoped we’d go 2-2 in the tournament, and was kind of afraid we might go 0-4.”

Esperanza went 3-1.

“And at point,” Hill said, “I thought we’d be pretty good.”

The players believed in Hill, said Eperanza star player Kezie Okpala.

“He has a lot of trust in his players and their abilities,” Okpala said.

Hill, whose 15 years as Esperanza's coach is split over two stints, found this year’s team to be among the easier he has coached.

“It was a motivated group,” he said. “It wasn’t a group where I had to crack the whip at practice. Sometimes it’s a grind, but this team loved competing in practice every day.”

Hill shared the credit for Esperanza’s great year with his coaching staff of Craig Matthews, Chris Roberts and Dan Gardner.

And, of course, there were the players.

“These guys really did believe in themselves,” Hill said.

Maybe the coach had something to do with that, way back in November.

Contact the writer:

See archived 'Sports' stories »

SoCal Prep Legends
Search Players


Corona 0, El Toro 4 - 7th Inns - Completed


Santa Margarita 11, St. Margaret's 15 - 00:00 3rd Period - Completed


Fountain Valley 3, Huntington Beach 4 - 7th Inns - Completed


Huntington Beach 1, JSerra 2 - 00:00 2nd Half - Completed


Paramount 5, El Toro 1 - 44:59 2nd Half - Completed


Canyon 0, El Toro 3 - 3rd Set - Completed


Foothill 8, Capistrano Valley Christian 3 - 7th Inns - Completed


El Toro 3, Capistrano Valley 1 - 4th Set - Completed


Corona del Mar 0, Godinez 1 - 00:00 1st Half - Completed


Long Beach Poly 36, Troy 21 - 08:00 3rd QT - Completed