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If you go

What: Schools Plus Senior All-Star Basketball Game

Who: Seniors from the North Bay and Sonoma County leagues

When: Friday. Girls tip off at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Elsie Allen High School, 599 Bellevue Ave.

Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for students and seniors

More: www.schoolsplus.org


There was once a time, when he served as a youth basketball coach, when Travis Taylor got to use the skills of his nephew, Connor Rubattino. More recently, though, he’s done everything in his power to try to shut him down.

Now the coach of the North Bay League champion Windsor Jaguars, Taylor has spent the past four years trying to find answers to what Rubattino, the All-Empire Player of the Year his junior season at Cardinal Newman, brings to the court.

Friday night the duo can set prep rivalries aside and work together for a win in the annual Schools Plus Senior All-Star Basketball Game.

The game marks not only the final prep hoops game for nearly 50 area seniors, it also marks Taylor’s and Rubattino’s basketball lives together coming full circle.

Instead of going head to head, the duo are part of the NBL all-star senior squad that will compete against a team of who’s who from the senior ranks of the Sonoma County League in the annual game. It’s a game where former rivals suit up on the same squad and give it one more go.

“Last week we had a lot of fun,” Taylor said of getting to know guys who he once drew up plays to stop. “These guys have a pretty good idea of how to play. We’ll play man to man and play hard.”

The annual event put on by the nonprofit Schools Plus will feature the girls game at 6 p.m., followed by the boys game at 7:30 p.m. at Elsie Allen. Schools Plus will charge for admission, but no athletes had to pay to play — sponsors have covered the costs, said Schools Plus president Jason Lea.

“This isn’t about the fundraising,” he said. “For Schools Plus it’s about recognizing kids and doing something for them and their families.”

“For some of them, it’s the last time they will play for their school,” he said.

For more than two decades, Schools Plus has raised funds to support arts and athletics at every middle and high school in Santa Rosa City Schools, Sonoma County’s largest school district.

And while it’s all in fun, everybody is going to go hard.

“I think both teams want to play as hard as they can and represent their league,” Taylor said.

On the girls’ side, they are mixing it up. Literally. There won’t be an NBL team or SCL team but rather a cross section of players from both leagues mixing it up and going at it.

Players from Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Analy, Ukiah and Maria Carrillo will suit up for one squad while players from Montgomery, Casa Grande and Sonoma will make up the other team.

“In the past, they did it so it was the SCL versus the NBL, but the NBL had higher skilled players,” said Jenny Eggers, Sonoma Valley senior and co-MVP of the SCL. “It was unfair because we’d lose every single year.”

Eggers, who has been keeping fit in the hope of playing for Santa Rosa Junior College next season, said the lure of playing with high school friends and competitors one more time was strong.

If you go

What: Schools Plus Senior All-Star Basketball Game

Who: Seniors from the North Bay and Sonoma County leagues

When: Friday. Girls tip off at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Elsie Allen High School, 599 Bellevue Ave.

Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for students and seniors

More: www.schoolsplus.org

“I’m super excited because I miss playing actual basketball games,” she said. “For it to be my last high school game ever will be just exciting to be a part of. Not everybody gets that chance.”

For Rubattino, who had his senior campaign nearly wiped out by a knee injury he sustained last fall during football season, that chance is especially meaningful.

“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s good to be able to get one last game in and just try to go out there and put on a show.”

With just a couple of practices before show time Friday night, there is some rust and more than a little burn of lactic acid.

“You can tell the guys who are transitioning,” Taylor said.

Taylor was being nice. Some of his guys haven’t been going game pace since basketball season wound down for most of them in February.

“The gas tank was running low for a lot of guys, I’ll admit that,” Taylor said.

But that’s part of it, too. This isn’t playoff-caliber basketball, it isn’t meant to be.

It’s meant to be run-and-gun and a chance for athletes who have been competitors to be teammates and for some athletes to give it one more go.

Among those suiting up with Rubattino are All-Empire Player of the Year Gabe Knight of Windsor, Joel Seitz of Montgomery and Nate Hale of Ukiah. The SCL team, coached by Analy’s Brett Page, will include Ryan Perez and Ryan Cox of Petaluma, Nick Hercules of Elsie Allen and Travis Holmes of Analy.

“We’ve been playing against these guys all our high school careers so it’s fun to play with them for once,” Rubattino said.

On the girls side, Santa Rosa’s Luis Patrick will coach Claire Howard of Maria Carrillo, Grace Pellini of Healdsburg, Mireya Lopez of Santa Rosa and Sarah Brown of Analy, among others. Jann Thorpe of Sonoma Valley will lead a team including Bella Bollman of Sonoma, LaDonna Saint Louis and Destiny Grayer of Montgomery and Joy Jovick of Casa Grande.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Windsor’s Knight said. “I’ve kind of put my high school days behind me ever since we lost to Montgomery. It will be fun playing one more (game) as a high schooler. I’m looking forward to it.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”