Robert Husseman, The Triplicate

Crescent Elk, Smith R. among the winners, but there were no losers

As much as spectators and supporters at the Crescent City Jaycees 45th Annual 8th Grade Basketball Tournament celebrated championships Saturday, they celebrated champions in equal measure.

Seven basketball teams won seven division championships, including a hometown favorite. Crescent Elk A's remarkable three-game run ended with the AA division championship, the school's first Jaycees Tournament championship in a decade.

Five cheerleading teams were crowned champions, including Smith River. The Wildcats' large and energetic contingent lit up every gym it entered. The Wildcats' two mascots also won a championship, equal parts supportive and entertaining.

Boulder Creek School of Redding was lauded for the respect and positive attitude shown by its basketball team and supporters, taking home the Sportsmanship Award. Harley Leiper, an eighth-grader at Trinity Preparatory Academy in Weaverville, was named Tournament Queen for her excellence inside and outside of the classroom.

Supporters of all stripes, some of whom were past participants in the tournament, lauded these champions with outrageous decibel levels. The Jaycees experience was in full effect.

"Kids would come back as 22-, 23-, 24-, 25-year olds - even though they would win league twice, or win a section championship, they invariably would say that their best basketball memory was coming to Crescent City," said John Berry, head coach of the Mountain Vista Middle School team from Kelseyville.

Berry, also the principal of Mountain Vista, has attended the Jaycees tournament for 33 years. He claimed that what made the tournament go from a "great experience" to a transformative one was the emphasis placed on scholarship and sportsmanship - marks of a true champion.

"It's a total package," he said. "This is Americana."

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