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Vikings second at Borrego Springs Basketball Tournament

The Vallecitos Elementary School boys reached the final of the Borrego Springs Basketball Tournament before settling for second place.

The Feb. 25 tournament was hosted by Borrego Springs Middle School. That school does not have its own gymnasium but is next to Borrego Springs High School, so the games were played on the high school campus. The second-place Borrego Springs Basketball Tournament finish for the Vallecitos boys was the best since the Vikings reached the final in 2018.

"I'm happy with that," said Vallecitos coach Ray Hanbeck.

Seventeen boys practiced with the Vallecitos team, although not all of them played at the tournament. Vallecitos did not field a girls team. Five girls expressed interest, but three of those are fifth-graders who had after-school tutoring and couldn't practice. The other two girls are in seventh grade and fifth grade, and both decided against being part of a co-ed team in the boys competition.

The games utilized a running clock and lasted for 20 minutes with no halftime. All six of the small K-8 elementary schools and middle schools in northern San Diego County and southern Riverside County which participate in the monthly athletic tournaments had boys teams. Warner High School (Warner Springs) also had a boys team only, so the girls portion of the tournament involved four schools.

The Vallecitos boys were given a first-round bye based on travel to Borrego Springs. The Vikings began play with a 14-13 win over Warner.

"It was just back and forth," Hanbeck said.

The Vikings had a one-point lead and were able to control the ball in the final seconds. "It came down to us being able to have the possession," Hanbeck said.

Geovani Yanez scored eight of the Vikings' points. Sylvestre Hernandez had four points. Alonso Duran scored the other two points for Vallecitos.

"It was the first time we've ever had the height that we had to be competitive in basketball," Hanbeck said.

Hanbeck noted the ability of Yanez and David Loera to take advantage of missed shots. "Those two were instrumental in being able to get the rebounds on both offense and defense," Hanbeck said.

"That brought a new facet to the team," Hanbeck said. "We were able to be more competitive in the rebounds."

Last year Vallecitos and Warner faced each other in the third-place game and the Wildcats were on the desired end of the 11-10 final score. The Vallecitos girls defeated Borrego Springs in the other third-place game last year.

"This is a pretty big accomplishment that they were able to do that, that they were able to go out in the first game and were very competitive. I was very happy with the way they came out," Hanbeck said of this year's team.

Pauma Elementary School had nine boys. The Bobcats won their first-round game against Cottonwood (Aguanga). The final score was 24-4.

"Blew them out," said Pauma coach Jaime Lopez. "Our boys played hard, played great offense, great defense."

Nathan Magante, Gideon James, and Angel Bentley were the top scorers for the Bobcats.

Pauma played Warner in the game whose winner would participate in the third-place boys game. The Wildcats made the winning basket with about 10 seconds remaining for an 18-16 triumph.

"My kids fought hard," Lopez said. "They made a great effort."

Pauma had 11 girls for the tournament, although the Bobcats lost all three girls games. "We didn't even come close," Lopez said.

Although the girls had round-robin play only with no formal championship or third-place games, Borrego Springs and Pauma both entered their game against each other with 0-2 records. Borrego Springs, whose nickname is also the Bobcats, took third place with a 2-0 victory over Pauma.

The Vallecitos boys had the height to reach the 2024 final, but Borrego Springs had that advantage in the championship game. "They were bigger, stronger, faster for the most part," Hanbeck said. "They have very big players."

The final ended as a 21-7 Borrego Springs victory. "We were able to keep it competitive for at least the first part of the game. The rest of the game they were able to control the boards," Hanbeck said.

Loera scored six points in the final. Yanez made a free throw for the Vikings' other point.

"I'm happy with what we did," Hanbeck said of second place.

The Vallecitos boys had won the Dec. 1 Cottonwood Flag Football Tournament and the Oct. 26 Vallecitos Soccer Tournament while placing second in the Sept. 21 Pauma Volleyball Tournament. The Vikings girls won all three of those previous tournaments.

"I've been happy with the way our sports teams have been producing," Hanbeck said.

The Hamilton School in Anza participated in the league through last year but has transitioned to competition against schools with larger enrollments. Hamilton had hosted the cross country meet, and Cottonwood has taken that over although that meet which will take place March 7 if weather permits will still be at Hamilton.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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