‘Mini-March Madness’

Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Annual hoops tournament tips off

It all started with a pin.

Crescent City Jaycees 44th annual 8th Grade Boys Basketball Tournament starts tomorrow, and the event's driving force will be sorely missed.

Arman Gunnerson, widely credited as the key organizer of the event, played in an 8th grade tournament in his youth and was awarded a lapel pin for participating.

"He was so taken aback by receiving that pin; it stuck with him for years and years," said Terri Colton, a fellow organizer.

Gunnerson pursued a similar tournament in Del Norte that could have

the same effect on kids that he felt from his tournament - times ten.

"His philosophy was no kid will leave without something in their

hand," Colton said. In doing this, the tourney is quite a success.

Hundreds of trophies, ribbons and certificates will be given to the

more than 1,100 basketball players, cheerleaders, school princesses, and

mascots competing this weekend. The awards will be announced and handed

out starting at 9:30 p.m. Saturday night at Del Norte High School.

The biggest award of the weekend, the Arman Gunnerson Sportsmanship

Award, goes to the school with the best collective performance in all of

the categories: basketball, cheer, mascot and school princess.

"It's not about winning; it's about good sportsmanship," said organizer John Phillips.

Seven gyms across the county will host the 56 teams competing.

Division AAA and AA basketball games begin at 4 p.m. in the Del Norte

High School gym. The A-l, A-2 and C division games begin at 4:15 p.m. in

the Foursquare Church Gym, Crescent Elk gym and Crescent Elk

multipurpose room. The B-l and B-2 Division games begin at 4:30 p.m. in

Redwood School Gym and Smith River Baptist Church Gym. The second round

of games resume at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Admission for the public is $3 for adults on Friday, which gets you

into all the Friday games and $2 for students. Saturday admission is $5

for adults and $3 for students, which provides access to all Saturday

games.

Schools from all over the West will be represented, including a

school from Arlington, Ariz. The principal and coach for the Arlington

team, Kyle Hart, played in the Crescent City Jaycees tournament as an

8th grader.

"Some of these kids may have never seen the ocean and here he brings them," said Phillips.

Phillips said he was nervous and excited about the first tournament

without Gunnerson. He remembers the three things Gunnerson taught him to

put on a good tournament: lots of trophies, good refereeing and good

bracketing.

"This is the one to come to. This is the tournament," Phillips said.

"There's one that's bigger, and that's March Madness. We're called

Mini-March Madness."

Gunnerson will be watching in spirit. The pillow he always sat on

during the games will be placed in the spot where he always sat, along

with the brown hat he always wore.

Black armbands will be worn at the tourney to honor Gunnerson. The

tournament sweatshirts will have number 51 on the front, Gunnerson's

basketball jersey number from his senior year at Fortuna.

On his own time, Gunnerson would scout regional tournaments in order

to invite the best teams to the Jaycees tournament, Phillips said.

"This year is all about Arman and his memory, because there's no better man," Phillips said.

The Players Hoop Shoot Contest begins at 2 p.m. at Del Norte High's

Thunen Gym, followed by the cheer teams routines. The mascot skits

competition will begin at 2:30 p.m. in Thunen.

There will be 275 cheerleaders on 21 teams that will perform

21andfrasl;2-minute routines, performing a music routine and standard cheers.

They will be judged on their ability, coordination, choreography, and

how they utilize the space and entertain the crowd. How the cheer teams

root for their basketball teams will also be taken into account when

choosing the winners.

The mascots will be judged on how they entertain the crowd.

"That's their duty to get them riled up," Colton said.

There are 16 school princesses competing to be named tournament

queen. The girls interview with judges and are scored based on their

poise, appearance, ability to converse, naturalness and school spirit.

"We look for that girl that's true to herself," said Kelly Schellong,

who organized the princess competition, and said it's a great

opportunity for the girls to learn interview skills. The princesses will

hand out the awards to the winners.

The tournament is a huge economic boon for the community. When

Colton owned the hotel that is now the Best Western, they depended on

the Jaycees tournament to get through the off-season.

"We used to bank on this to get through the winter," Colton said.

Although it's a windfall for the community, organizers hope to just

break even for the tournament. People buying tournament sweatshirts will

help.

But really what matters is the kids, organizers emphasized.

"It's absolutely about the kids," Colton said. "And that's how Arman wanted it."

For a full schedule of the events, see the schedule in today's paper or visit ccjaycees.org

Reach Adam Spencer at aspencer@triplicate.com .

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The Del Norte Triplicate
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