The tournament has a history of hosting teams that have gone deep into playoffs.
Six of the 16 teams playing at West and Tracy high schools this week were playoff contenders last year, but got only as far as the first round.
West coach Derek Sprecksel, one of the tournament organizers, said an early-season tournament like this is a chance for teams to find their potential. He added that with changes to team rosters every year it’s hard to judge how a team will do based on last year’s record.
“You’re graduating so many kids every year,” he said. “Each year is different, and it’s really hard to project those things until you have a body of work in front of you.”
This year’s 16-team bracket includes 13 teams that played in the tournament last year. One new team to the field is Golden Valley High of Merced, defending champion of the Central California Conference.
The Cougars won the Winter Classic tournament title in 2008 and went to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals at the end of that season. The Cougars played West for the tournament title on Thursday, Dec. 20, after press time.
Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter said a big tournament like this one helps fill a busy pre-league schedule, and also shows how much stamina his players and coaches have as they play four days in a row.
“Every game is a hard game when you’re not getting enough practice time. Every opponent is tough for us,” he said.
Kimball High coach Joe Lawrence, whose team is in the tournament for the third year in a row, also said the week is a good test for his players.
“It’s tough to play five or six guys for four days in a row, so it’s a chance for more guys to play,” Lawrence said. “The last couple rounds is probably going to be some playoff-bound teams — Golden Valley, Johansen, West.”
Tyrell Jenkins, coach for Pacheco High of Los Banos, said the competition this week gets his team ready for his squad’s Western Athletic Conference opponents like Central Catholic, Livingston and Patterson.
“Seeing teams like Kimball, Golden Valley, Tracy, West, does get us ready and battle-proven for our league,” he said. “In our season we play some teams that are OK, but this really gets us ready. This is what we say is our season to get ready for our season.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.