Coaches say fond memories bring them back
Donning shaved heads and pink T-shirts to honor a fellow player fighting cancer, Arlington Middle School won the championship of the A-2 Division at the 44th annual Crescent City Jaycees Basketball Tournament.
Joela Gregoria leaps with her fellow Crescent Elk B cheerleaders. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
Late in Arlington’s regular basketball season, the team’s point guard, Clayton “Taz” Turner was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a type of bone cancer occurring in adolescents. Before the tournament, the players and coaches shaved their heads in solidarity with Turner, and during games they were decked in pink socks and pink tees with “Taz” on the back.
“We made Clayton proud,” said coach Justin Moore, who grew up in Humboldt and played in the Jaycees tournament as an 8th grader.
Arlington principal and coach Kyle Hart also played in the Jaycees as a kid. That’s the reason he brings his team up to the North Coast from Arlington, Ariz.
“It’s the best tournament in the nation,” Hart said. “I have a lot of memories from this tournament. It was my favorite trip as a child.”
At the end of the second half, the Arlington Wildcats were trailing Anderson Valley by seven points, 17-24, but the second half was all Wildcats.
Arlington held Anderson Valley to two points in the third quarter and took the lead, 38-26.
The Anderson Valley Panthers tightened the Wildcats’ lead to 49-47 late in the fourth quarter, but Arlington held on, winning the game, 51-47.
“We’ve always been a second half team,” Hart said. Although this is the first time Arlington will go home champions, this was the second time that Hart brought his school’s basketball team to the Jaycees Tournament, and he hopes it’s not the last.
“I’d bring them up here every year if we could afford it,” Hart said.
Tournament organizer John Phillips said Hart’s experience is commonplace at the big Jaycees event. People always tend to come back.
“That's what we want everyone to leave with, the memory of this tournament and wanting to come back to this tournament,” Phillips said.
John Berry, coach of Mt. Vista Middle School in Kelseyville has been coaching teams in the Jaycees tournament for decades. Berry received a phone call Friday night from a past player, who wanted to give a pep talk to this year’s Mt. Vista team.
Mt. Vista ended up taking second place in the A-1 Division, losing to Coquille. Coquille nailed two free throws with 2.8 seconds left in the game to win the championship, 47 to 46.
With several middle schools usually feeding one high school, organizer George Wilder noted how this tournament is often the last big basketball event many kids will play in.
“It’s amazing to see the impact that this tournament has on these kids,” Wilder said. “For most of them, it’s the last basketball they’re going to play.”
The event means just as much for the cheerleaders, mascots and princesses, said organizer Terri Colton.
“They put hours and hours into practice and a lot of them have to fundraise to get here,” Colton said. “I hope they feel a great amount of accomplishment in themselves.”
All of the organizers had a somber yet successful experience without longtime lead organizer Arman Gunnerson, who died last summer, but they think Gunnerson would have been proud
“It was a very exciting tournament,” Phillips. “Arman would have been proud of us.”
AAA Division 1st: Sunny Brae
AA Division 1st: Jacoby Creek
A-1 Division 1st: Coquille
A-2 Division: Arlington
B-1 Division: Palermo
B-2 Division: Stanwood Murphy
C Division: Freshwater
AAA Division: Mountain View
AA Division: Redwood
A-1 Division: Fortuna
B-1 Division: Weaverville
B-2 Division: Cuddeback
C Division: Grenada
1st: Maycee Caudill and Paige Richardson, Toddy Thomas
2nd: Kelsey Jenkins, Weaverville
3rd: Britney Strom, Smith River
Rebeckah Rubanowitz, Grant
AAA: Brent Tuckel, Healdsburg
AA: Kyle Parkinson, Happy Valley
A-1: Kokko Figueiredo, Fortuna
A-2: Kyle Hart, Arlington
B-1: Jonathan Valladares, Smith River
B-2: Daniel Standring, Crescent Elk
C Division: Jordan Jones, Redwood