By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A busy basketball week in the Empire is under way, with large- and small-school action, often in the same tournament.
Early-season tournaments provide good game experience. The typical eight-team format guarantees three games in as many days.
Packed with Empire teams and featuring quality opponents from Northern California, tournaments give prep fans plenty of choices.
Boys tournaments this week are in Healdsburg, at Cardinal Newman, Cloverdale and Calistoga. On the girls side are tournaments in Healdsburg, at Maria Carrillo and Calistoga.
Healdsburg hosts the region’s oldest event. The Redwood Empire Invitational Basketball Tournament, in its 64th year, has eight team boys and girls competitions.
“It’s pretty competitive. We try to keep it that way,” said Healdsburg athletic director and co-girls coach Brain Osborn.
More than half of the teams entered in the Healdsburg tournament reached last season’s section playoffs. To accommodate so many squads, organizers staggered first-round games over Wednesday and today. On Friday, games are split between Healdsburg high and middle schools.
The 48th edition of the Rose City Tournament for boys, hosted by Cardinal Newman, also boasts a handful of section playoff squads from a year ago.
“It’s a really good field and should be a competitive tournament,” said Cardinal Newman coach Tom Bonfigli.
Rose City contests begin today. A break in the rain should help attendance at area tournaments, Bonfigli said.
Hosting tournaments can be a good way for a team to win some games and build confidence. That is the goal for Maria Carrillo’s girls team under new coach Chris Walton as the school puts on the Lady Puma Invitational starting today.
“It’s a nice little stretch of games,” Walton said. “It gives you some competition and you get to see teams you may face in the sections.”
Despite so many tournaments going at the same time, organizers don’t lack for finding teams.
A mix of large and small schools usually results, sometimes creating match-ups teams otherwise wouldn’t schedule.
“We want to get as many local teams as possible. We also have some teams that always come. Once you find a town you like you tend to stay,” Osborn said. “You also try to get division opponents.”
One reason teams play two and sometimes three tournaments is gaining games against opponents in the same division, which is based on school enrollment. That can help achieve one of the selection criteria for a section playoff spot if a team can record a winning record in division contests.
So, the girls’ side of the Healdsburg tournament features a handful of NCS Division 4 teams plus squads from larger schools.
Tournaments are a bargain for fans, as well as fun for players. You can see several games in one night for the cost of a single ticket.
“It’s cool. You get a lot of games in,” Osborn said.
SRJC HOSTS WOMEN’S TOURNEY
The Santa Rosa Junior College women host the Caren Franci Invitational starting today and continuing through Saturday. Santa Rosa opens today against a Bear Cubs alumni team, as organizers scrambled to replace the Simpson College junior varsity. Santa Rosa coach Lacey Campbell has called in enough former players to fill two alumni teams as some cannot play the entire tournament. Look for very competitive contests.
THURSDAY’S TOURNAMENT GAMES
HIGH SCHOOL BOYS
Moreau Catholic vs. Maria Carrillo, 5:30 p.m.
Lower Lake vs. Healdsburg, 8:30 p.m.
Gene Duffy Classic, Calistoga
Summerfield Waldorf at Lutheran, 3:30 p.m.
Trinity Prep at South Fork, 6:30 p.m.
Rose City Tournament, Cardinal Newman
Windsor vs. San Marin, 3:30 p.m.
Rancho Cotate vs. St. Mary’s (Berkeley), 5 p.m.
Santa Rosa vs. Redwood, 6:30 p.m.
Cardinal Newman vs. El Molino, 8 p.m.
John McMillan Holiday Invitational, Cloverdale
St. Helena vs. SF Waldorf, 4 p.m.
Clear Lake vs. Hoopa, 5:30 p.m.
Berean Christian vs. Roseland Prep, 7 p.m.
St. Vincent vs. Cloverdale, 8:30 p.m.
Montgomery at Lincoln, Island Classic Tournament
Analy vs. Albany, Carl “Red” Brown Tournament
Point Arena vs. Swett at Valley Christian of Dublin Tourney, 6 p.m.
HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS
Novato vs. McKinleyville, 4 p.m.
San Rafael vs. Clear Lake, 7 p.m.
Lady Puma Invitational, Maria Carrillo
Whitney vs. Montgomery, 3:40 p.m.
Analy vs. Arcata, 5 p.m.
St. Vincent vs. Tamalpais, 6:30 p.m.
Roseland Prep vs. Maria Carrillo, 8 p.m.
Gene Duffy Classic, Calistoga
Lutheran vs. South Fork, 5 p.m.
Santa Rosa vs. Moreau Catholic, Terra Nova Tiger Classic, 4:45 p.m.
Fort Bragg at Mt. Shasta Holiday Tournament
SRJC WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT
Redwoods vs. City College of San Francisco, 2 p.m.
Mendocino vs. Ohlone, 4 p.m.
Feather River vs. San Joaquin Delta, 6 p.m.
SRJC vs. SRJC alumni, 8 p.m.
Note: Don’t see your tournament listed, or are you hosting an upcoming tournament? Send schedules to eric [dot] wittmershaus [at] pressdemocrat [dot] com.