The day after Christmas, the Yosemite High School boys and girls varsity basketball teams embarked on a eight-day journey to Orlando for a 70-team tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. The first night was spent in the air as the teams and chaperons took a red-eye flight from San Francisco. The traveling party of 40 included 19 players, four coaches and 17 supporters.
After arriving in Orlando and being transported to the All Star Sports Hotel, the Yosemite players were excited to find their rooms located in the basketball wing with 30 foot backboards placed atop 25 foot poles. Disney buses departed every 20 minutes to the four theme parks, Downtown Disney and water parks. Thirty minutes after arriving, the teams were on a bus to the Hollywood Studios theme park. The main street complex was decorated by millions of holiday lights and the players went on the two biggest attractions, Rock and Roll Roller coaster and Tower of Terror.
The second day saw both teams having games at the ESPN complex, which includes the Atlanta Braves spring training stadium, 10 soccer fields and a similar number of softball and baseball fields. Gary Blate's girls team played in the Jostens fieldhouse, which was large enough to house six basketball courts. Steve Lopez' boys team played next door in the arena, which had four courts.
After returning to their hotel, the Yosemite contingent took a bus back to the Hollywood Studios parking lot and then boarded a large water taxi to Epcot, another theme park. Players were then off for the thrilling Test Track attraction. After designing their own convertible vehicles, everyone was soon accelerating to 60 mph on the curved track.
The group then caught the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom theme park which had Magic Hours (midnight to 3 a.m.) for all the teams in the tournament, to avoid long lines and sold out crowds which were at the park during normal hours. Players quickly got on Space Mountain, the Tea Cups and Pirates of the Caribbean.
The next day the teams played mid-afternoon games and then got on buses to downtown Orlando for the opportunity to watch an NBA game between the Orlando Magic and the Toronto Raptors. Day four was a Sunday with no games so the teams woke up early to board buses to the Universal complex, which features two theme parks featuring the World of Harry Potter with Hogwarts Castle and the Islands of Adventure.
Other great attractions in the park were the Spiderman 3D ride, the Incredible Hulk roller coaster -- which had instant acceleration with numerous corkscrews and drops -- and the "Rip It Rock It" roller coaster that lets you select the music to accompany your adventure.
The next day featured the last games of the tournaments with a trophy presentation and team picture with Mickey Mouse. Yosemite seniors Luke Blate and Dahlia Lopez received all-tournament honors.
The players returned to the hotel and then departed to Downtown Disney to do some souvenir shopping and then back to the sports complex hotel to get ready for a private New Years Eve party at a luxury hotel in Orlando. The private dinner-party was for all 1,700 tournament players and supporters. A DJ kept the hits and videos going in between acts from Cirque de Soliel, singers and a midnight fireworks show.
New Year's day saw some of the Yosemite travelers go to the Capitol One Bowl football game between Nebraska and Georgia. Others ventured to Miami to see the Orange Bowl football game between Florida State and Northern Illinois.
On Jan. 2, everybody woke up early to go to the fourth Disney theme park, Animal Kingdom, to see wild animals including lions, giraffes and rhinoceros. The animals are in cleverly designed enclosures with plenty of room to wander. Dinoland had some fun rides and then everyone saw the Lion King show.
The teams got to play basketball and go to six different theme parks plus many other activities. They had been fund raising since last April with the result being an action packed eight days they will all remember for many years.
The Yosemite basketball teams want to thank the community for their financial support that made the trip possible.
The teams are back on the court in Tehachapi Friday. The boys team (0-13) open North Sequoia League play Jan. 15 at Sierra. The girls team (7-6), went 2-1 to place third in their bracket in Orlando, travel to Sierra Jan. 16. The teams host Liberty at Baker Gym on Jan. 18. The girls are going after their 11th consecutive league title.