It’s that special time of year for many reasons and that includes high school basketball tournaments-a-plenty in Sonoma County.
Starting Thursday, two three-day, eight-team boys basketball tournaments begin with their opening rounds, featuring some compelling hardwood matchups.
Sonoma County Classic
The 36th annual installment of the Sonoma County Classic at Piner High School features three out-of-the-area teams, including one of the top teams in the country — Las Lomas (8-0) of Walnut Creek, ranked 10th in California and 52nd in the nation, according to the MaxPreps website. The Knights are led by highly acclaimed 6-foot-4 senior transfer guard Nathan Robinson.
“Las Lomas is the heavy favorite,” Piner coach and tournament director Mike Erickson said. “They are a (similarly) talented team coming back from last year and they added a Division I prospect” in Robinson.
Las Lomas opens at 4 p.m. Thursday against Casa Grande (2-8). Well-balanced Cardinal Newman (9-1) leads off against Eureka (2-6) later Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Assuming both the Cardinals and Knights emerge victorious from their opening-round games, the schools will face each other in a second-round game in the championship bracket Friday at 8:30 p.m.
“The biggest challenger to Las Lomas is Cardinal Newman,” Erickson said. “They have won a few tournaments already. They have a lot of experienced guys and a lot of depth.”
The Cardinals were losers in the tournament championship game last year to Mt. Eden (4-5) of Hayward. The Monarchs feature last year’s returning tournament MVP, 6-foot-5 senior Jeffrey Okeke, and play Thursday at 7 p.m. against Elsie Allen (2-7).
Thursday's final game features Piner (9-2) hosting Santa Rosa (2-7) at 8:30 p.m. The Prospectors have won their own tournament seven times in the past, but not for many years, according to Erickson.
“We play better at home than on the road. We are off to a pretty good start, but we have to keep improving,” Erickson said. “We have a pretty young team. Playing Santa Rosa in our first game should be a good battle.”
The Prospectors are led by guard Jared Saddler (12.5 points per game) and forward Christian Gutierrez (10.5 ppg, 8.9 rebounds).
The finale of the championship bracket will be held Saturday at 6 p.m. The consolation bracket championship for fifth place will be Saturday at 3 p.m.
“This field is tough, comparable to previous years,” Erickson said. “We generally have good crowds, so hopefully the turnout will be good this year.”
Windsor Holiday Shootout
The eighth annual edition of the Windsor Holiday Shootout features several compelling teams, including the host Jaguars (7-3), who have a legitimate chance to win their first Shootout title. Windsor showcases brothers Riley Smith (21 points per game, 8.5 rebounds) and Justin Smith (15 points, 9.5 rebounds) manning the interior and causing headaches for opponents.
“It would be great to win this tournament. We have been real close in the past” (third place last season), Windsor coach Travis Taylor said.
“You want to be playing well heading into league play come January.”
Windsor plays Analy in the final game of the opening round, Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Analy (2-8) has struggled this season, but Taylor is wary of the Tigers.