A 63-48 victory over Pacheco on Dec. 21 put a nice polish on Oakdale High’s varsity basketball preseason, but today’s start to the 42nd Annual Oakdale Rotary Classic (Dec. 28) represents the last test drive before conference play.
Oakdale hosts Denair at 8 p.m. for the end of four consecutive games to begin tournament play. The tournament continues with second round action on Thursday and the Rotary championship round on Friday.
The Mustangs reached the title game a year ago, but fell to Riverbank in a hard-fought finale. Riverbank is undefeated (9-0) on the current season and a likely favorite to claim the title in 2011. The competition pool also includes Ripon Christian (7-2), Los Banos (6-2), Grace Davis (7-4), Chavez (7-2), Hughson (3-7) and Denair (2-8). Five of Oakdale’s seven opposing teams in the tournament qualified for the postseason a year ago.
“There is obviously a lot of tournaments that go on all the time, but what is unique to me is that we have some storied schools in this tournament,” Oakdale coach Jeremy Fields said. “They are great teams with great coaches and it makes for some great match-ups.”
Grace Davis and Riverbank met in the semifinals of one bracket half for a thrilling showdown in 2010. The two should meet in the semis again this year, but returning Division V section runner-up (Ripon Christian) should test Riverbank in the tourney’s opening round. If Oakdale gets past Denair, they will play for a chance of a semifinal rematch with Los Banos or a Chavez team that started the season with six straight wins.
The Mustangs saw serious improvement to their own season during the win over Pacheco. Oakdale pulled away from a six-point first quarter lead with a 24-9 advantage in the second quarter and a 23-19 advantage in the second half.
DeWayne Finney scored a game high 16 points while Manny Hernandez sent home a pair of two-handed dunks and capped a 12-point night. Nick Van Ryn (10 points), Marcus Hernandez (nine), Justin Martinez (eight), Josh Watts (six) and Vince Fauria (two) also connected with the bottom of the net.
Due to a busy preseason schedule, coach Fields said the game was Oakdale’s first opportunity to practice two or more days prior to a contest. The team responded with solid execution in each quarter of play and impressive defense to limit a Pacheco offense that had played to a 593-596 scoring ratio against 11 opponents (6-5) this year. Oakdale (3-4) has also beaten Waterford and Central Valley this season. Their run through the Rotary Tourney will be the final preseason games before a Jan. 3 Valley Oak League opener against reigning league champs, Weston Ranch.
“We use the Rotary to make sure we are getting to where we want to be going into league,” Fields said. “Making the finals would be great, and we would love to get back there and win it.
“What you saw tonight (against Pacheco) was unselfish basketball and kids playing hard. If we can get that every night we will be fine.”
The Rotary Classic starts at 9 a.m. with junior varsity games that continue to 2 p.m. Hughson and Los Banos meet for a 3:30 p.m. varsity tip off while Riverbank and Ripon Christian follow at 5 p.m. Grace Davis and Chavez square off at 6:30 p.m., while Oakdale and Denair close tourney play for the first day starting at 8 p.m.
Oakdale’s junior varsity squad is rolling on the momentum of a 54-43 win over Pacheco for their first victory of the year. Austin Archuleta scored 20 points in the win while Kyle Osborn put up 17. Nick McMurry added 11 points while Milton Obispo (four) and Eric Ruiz (two) also contributed scores.