For the first time since 2003, a Crescent Elk Middle School team has brought home a Jaycees Tournament banner.
The Crescent Elk A team defeated Fortuna Middle School, 50-32, on Saturday night at Del Norte High School's Thunen Gymnasium to become AA division champions of the Crescent City Jaycees 45th Annual 8th Grade Basketball Tournament.
Crescent Elk A led 16-11 after the first quarter and picked up its defensive intensity entering the second quarter. The Cougars forced the Spartans into attempting poor shots or turning the ball over, and Crescent Elk A pushed the ball up the floor in transition for easy baskets.
"The whole process of man defense really started to click this weekend," Crescent Elk head coach John Horner said. "They got after it physically. (Fortuna) had no answers.
"And we shot the ball well. We haven't shot that well all season."
The Cougars led 33-18 at the half and never slowed down, outscoring the Spartans 15-5 in the third quarter. Horner played all 10 of his players by the end of the third quarter, and Crescent Elk A allowed large chunks of time to expire during their fourth-quarter possessions.
Dayton Skeen and Parker Thompson each scored 12 points to lead the Cougars. Chee Shorty contributed seven points toward the winning effort, and Jovanni Munoz and Josh Bradley had six points apiece.
Of course, Crescent Elk A had to get to the game first, and Mountain Vista of Kelseyville stood in the Cougars' way on Saturday morning.
The game was tied in the third quarter before Crescent Elk A's timely shooting carried the Cougars to a 55-49 victory.
For the championship game, Crescent Elk A wore its traditional white uniform with green trim. A small patch was affixed to the jersey, with green text on a black background, reading "EPP". The Cougars have remembered the late Eric Epperson, the Crescent Elk physical education teacher who died in April 2011, throughout the season.
"He was there watching us, helping us out for sure," Horner said.
Cougars, Raiders shine
The Crescent Elk A squad was not alone among local schools in placing in its division at the Jaycees Tournament.
Crescent Elk C lost its semifinal game on Saturday against Grenada, 59-34, but bounced backin the C division third-place game with a 47-40 defeat of Loleta.
Redwood Red responded from a first-round loss in the A-2 division, winning its next two games to be named consolation champion. As with their first-round loss to Mendocino, the Raiders struggled through two tight games on Saturday but emerged on top, defeating Hayfork, 39-37, and Pacific Union (Arcata), 37-32.
Also in the C division, Redwood White lost its first game to Douglas City, 55-49, late Friday night.
The Raiders rebounded with a 53-32 win over Smith River White on Saturday morning, then defeated Freshwater, 64-36, to become C division consolation champions.
Smith River Blue, playing in the A-1 division, lost its two games on Saturday by a combined three points. Hoopa defeated the Wildcats, 51-49, on Saturday morning before Ferndale eked out a 45-44 win over Smith River Blue in the division's seventh-place game.
Crescent Elk's B team, entered in the B-1 division, went 0-3 in its tournament games. The Cougars lost to Monument (Rio Dell), 60-58, on Friday and opened Saturday morning with a 51-40 loss to Trinity Prep (Weaverville). Maria Montessori School of Rocklin defeated Crescent Elk B in the divisional eighth-place game, 58-54.
The combined team from Klamath River Early College of the Redwoods and Foursquare School lost its first game on Saturday to Freshwater, 57-22. KRECR/Foursquare met up with Smith River White in the C division seventh-place game later Saturday; the Wildcats bested the Eagles, 36-22.
Sunny Brae Middle School of Arcata won the AAA division title, defeating Andros Karperos School of Yuba City in the championship game.
The other division winners were: Pacheco (Redding) in the A-1 division; Middletown in the A-2 division; Trinity Valley (Willow Creek) in the B-1 division; Yoncalla (Ore.) in the B-2 division; and Grenada in the C division.
Reach Robert Husseman at email@example.com.