There was an abundance of talent last year when the Carson Valley Classic boys basketball tournament made its debut. Don't expect anything less this weekend when eight teams representing three states converge on the Douglas High School gym for the second annual Classic.
Action tips off Thursday with four games and continues through Saturday. Churchill County (Fallon) plays Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.) in Thursday's opener at 3:30 p.m., Merced (Calif.) plays Carson at 5 p.m., Laguna Creek (Elk Grove, Calif.) plays host Douglas at 6:30 p.m. and Memorial (Victoria, Texas) plays Rancho Cotate (Sonoma, Calif.) at 8 p.m.
The championship game is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Saturday.
As for that talent, Memorial qualified for the Texas 5A state tournament last March and Amador Valley advanced to the CIF/Northern California Tournament last year. Amador Valley lost to East Bay Athletic League rival California High (San Ramon) in the Classic championship game last year, 58-54. On the Nevada side, Carson and Douglas were both qualifiers for the Northern 4A Regionals last season.
"We're very excited about the caliber of teams we've been able to bring in for this tournament," Douglas coach Keith Lewis said. "It's a great challenge for our kids and I encourage people in the community to come out and support us and see how we compare with teams from other areas."
For Douglas, the opener against the Laguna Creek Cardinals will be a rematch of the third-place game at last year's Classic. Laguna Creek beat Douglas in that game, 61-60.
A capsule breakdown on some of the teams:
Amador Valley: Six-foot-6 senior Thomas Juillerat leads a team that entered this season ranked No. 8 overall in Northern California and No. 6 statewide among Division II schools by CalHiSports. Amador Valley finished fourth in the EBAL last season, then captured second in the North Coast Section Division II Tournament (one of their wins along the way came at the expense of California). Juillerat scored 19 points Saturday to help Amador Valley (2-0) defeat Ygnacio Valley, 53-47. Stuart Yoshida, a 6-2 junior, also scored 19 in that game for the Dons. Don Underwood is in his 33rd season at Amador Valley.
Merced: The Bears were in the thick of their Central California Conference championship race last January when injuries began to mount. The end result was a 13-16 overall record, 6-7 in conference and they missed the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for only the second time in Vince Clemons' 20 years as head coach (423-201 record with 11 conference titles). This is a new season and the Bears have seven returnees, four of whom were starters last season. They are off to a 1-1 start so far, including a 70-62 loss against St. Mary's in Stockton on Saturday. Senior guard Chris Farmer scored 23 points in that game, including five 3-pointers.
Memorial: The John Grammer-coached Vipers, Texas 5A state tournament qualifiers last season, are off to a 4-1 start and have already shown a knack for offense by averaging 73.2 points per game. The only game they've been under 60 points came in a 58-55 loss to San Antonio Reagan on Nov. 22. Jeremy Barrett, a 6-2 sophomore, leads the offense with his 23.6 point average and 5-11 junior Jeremy Thomas is scoring at a 14.4 clip. J.D. Holzheauser, a 6-7 senior, and 6-3 senior Bo Matson are scoring threats. Sophomore Xavier Arkadie is a standout receiver for a Memorial football team that lost in the state playoffs last weekend.
Carson: Lost considerable firepower from a team that finished 22-8 and advanced to the Northern 4A Regional Tournament semifinals last season. The Senators return senior Ryan Henry, who played a big role last season, though he mostly played in the shadows of Vince Inglima (20.7 points per game), Ryan Buttner and Adam McKenzie. Seniors Ricky Correlli, Andy Baum, Gary Borst and Ed Jaquette return to support some strength for the Senators, who are opening their season at the Classic. Correlli scored nine points in Carson's 61-49 regional tournament victory against Galena last February.
Churchill County: Guard Erick Weed returns and provides the Greenwave with one of the top outside shooting threats in the Northern 4A. James Anderson, at 6-4, is an inside threat and Walter Lewis has emerged as a player to watch. "They're typical of any team Corey (Williams) coaches," said Lewis, whose Tigers played in Fallon Tuesday night. "They get after you, they play hard and they play good defense."