8th grade boys basketball tournament has tradition
Carlos Mendeguia knows the sights of Carson Middle School’s gym all too well. The old permanent bleachers, the locker rooms, and of course, that Tartan floor.
This is where Mendeguia once played basketball in the 1980s. And he is well aware of the tradition – that this is the same court that served as home to Carson High School’s 1975 state championship team.
That’s why, win or lose, coaching the Carson Middle School Solons in the 11th annual Junior Capital Classic this past weekend was a special experience.
“I didn’t play in this tournament, but this is the same exact court that was here when I played for Ron Tamori,” said Mendeguia, a 1988 Carson High graduate. “It’s fun to come back and give something back to the community and to the kids.”
Then Mendeguia flashed a smile as he motioned to a well-maintained Tartan floor.
“This is the same exact court that was in here when this was the high school and Carson won the state championship,” added the coach, whose Solons brought a 35-7 season record into Sunday morning’s game against Marina Village.
The Classic itself has built up some tradition of its own over the past 11 years.
“We don’t have to solicit teams to come here. We’re having to turn them away at this point,” Mendeguia said. “We attract good teams from our area and good teams from California. Bill Cartwright coached at Marina Village and his kids played here. And four of the kids who are playing right now for Jesuit (one of Sacramento and Northern California’s top-ranked high school teams) play in this tournament.”
The Classic was a competitive event this weekend. Just consider that six teams still had a shot at playing for the championship coming into Sunday.
“Both of the brackets were very competitive,” said tournament director Sam Santillo, another Carson High graduate who, like Mendeguia, has played and coached in the old middle school gym. “We had two overtime games and another one that darn near went to overtime.
“With eighth graders, you never know what’s going to happen,” Santillo said. “That’s why this (round robin) format is so nice. You can lose one game and still have an opportunity to compete for the championship.”
Twelve teams participated over three days in both the Carson and Eagle Valley middle school gyms.
“We’re fortunate to have full access to two full gyms,” Santillo said. “A lot of teams that come to this tournament are used to sharing multi-purpose rooms.”
The Junior Capital Classic offers more than good basketball.
“It gives them a chance to experience our area,” Santillo said. “They get to see the state capital, the state legislature, to see Lake Tahoe and the different changes of weather.
“One case in point, a buddy of mine brought his team to the tournament from San Mateo (Calif.) one year,” he added. “He took them up to Spooner Summit to go sledding – that was the first time a lot of those kids had ever seen snow.”