Eighth grade basketball teams from all over California and Oregon met in Del Norte County over the weekend, competing for myriad trophies offered at the 46th Annual Jaycees Basketball Tournament.
The group of eighth-graders from Redwood School stole the show, picking up several first-place trophies and winning the Arman Gunnerson Sportsmanship Award for the second time in three years.
"We are still buzzing," said Redwood principal Jeff Slayton on Monday. "It feels really good. The kids are all proud of themselves. A lot of hard work went into Saturday. Jaycees is huge and it is the last tournament of the season, so it is nice to finish up on such a positive note. Everyone is walking around here pretty happy."
The Redwood Red team, Redwood's highest-rated team at the tournament, competed in the A-2 division, winning all three games and capturing the championship.
"It was a tough tournament," said Redwood Red head coach Marc Slayton. "We played a tough Grant Team on Friday night, got through that one. Then we won an overtime game against Ferndale and a tough championship game against a really good (Monument) team."
Monument was red hot from behind the three-point line in the A-2 championship game, hitting three-straight three pointers in the fourth quarter to take a 37-34 lead with two minutes remaining. The Raiders were able to keep their cool, however, and outscore Monument 6-1 down the stretch for the 40-38 victory.
"The kids really stepped up," Slayton said. "We fell behind late in both games today, but we found a way to win. That says a lot about the kids, the character that they have and the faith that they have in each other to pull through."
The Redwood Red cheerleaders also captured the A-2 cheerleading competition. Redwood cheerleading coach Athena de Solenni said her team was confident that it could win heading into the competition. The Raiders had been practicing since September and working on their Jaycees routine since Christmas and it all came together Saturday.
"I think our togetherness was a big factor," de Solenni said. "We all get along, we all work well together and we put a lot of time and effort into it. The last two weeks we have been practicing five days a week."
The basketball and cheerleading titles were two of the biggest reasons that Redwood was able to win what Jaycees organizers claim is their biggest award - the Arman Gunnerson Sportsmanship Award.
"They had the most points," said Jaycees Tournament Chairman Luke O'Laughlin. "They had a cheerleading team, they had a poster, their coach was great during the games, the fans were great, the team was great on the court, so they symbolized sportsmanship this year."
Redwood also won the sportsmanship award in 2012. Prior to that, it had been a couple decades since Redwood had captured the award.
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