Tom Bonfigli promises to do his best to bite his lip if things get out of hand Friday night.
Cardinal Newman’s boys basketball coach is famously devoted to the fundamentals, but even this old-schooler is willing to let things fly a little in the annual Schools Plus Senior All-Star Basketball game. After all, it is an all-star game, where team defense usually goes the way of the dodo.
“You want them to have fun, you need to let them go,” he said. “You don’t want to overcoach them. It’s different than coaching your own team. I’ll try to have good body language when they throw the ball out of bounds.”
Bonfigli, who coached his Cardinals to the North Bay League title this season, will head up the 10-man roster for the NBL all-stars, while Sonoma County League-winning coach Brett Page of Analy will lead the SCL squad.
“(We talk about) a couple of things that they want to do and then we let them play,” Page said. “As a group, they look pretty good.”
On the girls side, it will be Jann Thorpe from the SCL-winning Sonoma Valley Dragons and Steve Bell, who spent 26 seasons coaching the Vikings’ varsity girls team before he retired before the most recent season.
“This is really an opportunity to give the seniors a last chance to play and to show appreciation to them and what they have given over the last four years,” Bell said.
But there is another side to the game.
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.
After forgoing their biggest fundraiser of the year last fall, donations to Santa Rosa schools fell from $230,000 divided among 11 campuses in recent years to $150,000 this year, according to John Bribiescas, a founding member of the 26-year-old nonprofit group.
The game is a way to keep people thinking about Schools Plus, he said.
“We are looking to see what kind of foundation we are going to be, how we are going to raise money in the future,” he said.
While Schools Plus is in transition in some ways, the annual basketball game will look much like it has in recent years. Girls will tip off at 6 p.m. and the boys will go at 7:30 p.m.
That’s something that ought to be reconsidered next year. It doesn’t seem quite right to slot the girls in as the opening act for the boys as headliners year after year.
This is, after all, a thank you to the players and families so why not share the prime time love?
Regardless of the tip-off issue, it’s a unique game that allows competitors to suit up as teammates.
“It helps give players a chance to see people who are opponents over the years in a little different light,” Bell said.
“It’s a fun game. I’m sure the kids are going to get after it,” he said. “If you were to boil it down, I think it probably comes down to bragging rights.”