By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Tonight’s 2014-15 NBL/SCL boys’ and girls’ senior all-star basketball games are chock full of talent on the court and pacing the sidelines.
The fifth annual event is sponsored by nonprofit organization Schools Plus and is hosted by Montgomery High. The girls’ game is at 6 p.m. and the boys play at 7:30 p.m.
The NBL boys’ squad features Press Democrat All-Redwood Empire first-team players Michael Septimo and Erik Poulsen of Montgomery and Jon Christy of Casa Grande. Second teamers Will Crain of Casa Grande and Clayton Andrews of Maria Carrillo are also on the squad. Longtime legendary local coaches Tom Fitchie of Montgomery and Tom Bonfigli will guide the NBL boys.
“I think the NBL has a really deep team and I’m looking forward to playing with these guys,” said Gunnar Walker, Cardinal Newman’s 6-foot-8 center who was the NBL Defensive Player of the Year. “I’m not sure how deep the SCL team is, but they are going to have a really tough starting five.”
The SCL boys will be led by first-team All-Redwood Empire selection Jalen Busby of Elsie Allen and second-teamers Keith Adams and Adam Kuzmicki of Piner. Coaches Madison Lott of Elsie Allen and Mike Erickson of Piner lead the SCL boys.
The SCL girls’ squad is headed by first-team All-Redwood Empire player Joelle Krist of Petaluma and second-team selection Jenna Petray of Analy. The SCL is guided by Tom Corriveau, who coaches at the NorCal Academy.
The NBL girls will be led by first-team All-Redwood Empire players Jessica Barbosa of Windsor and Kylie Oden of Santa Rosa, along with second-team player Abbey Lea of Montgomery. Vikings freshman coach Paul LaBlue will lead the NBL along with coach John Bartholome.
According to John Bribiescas, Schools Plus chairman and former longtime chair of the Santa Rosa High English Department, the organization has been helping fund Santa Rosa city high and middle schools since 1990. Bribiescas said that more than 92 percent of the proceeds that Schools Plus takes in from donations and events such as the all-star basketball games are used to help Santa Rosa schools. Schools Plus proceeds are split 50-50 between school athletics and music/art programs, Bribiescas said.
“We are in the midst of allocating $232,000 right now to 11 schools. We have raised well over $6 million since Schools Plus began in 1990,” Bribiescas said. “These all-star basketball games exemplify how important athletics are to schools.”
Not only do the games raise critical funding for school athletic programs, they showcase some of the top Sonoma County hoops talent and provide one last opportunity for seniors to represent their schools in what will be, for many, the final game in their formal basketball careers.
“I’m excited because this is my last high school game and I’m thankful I am a part of it,” said Walker, who will be attending SMU in Dallas in the fall and is debating whether to try to walk-on to play for the Mustangs. “It’s just a great feeling that I get to play in Friday’s game.”