The Yosemite Youth Basketball Association (YYBA) hosted 28 teams during its 12th Annual Yosemite Spring Fling girls basketball tournament last weekend. The two-day event was sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and hosted primarily club teams in six age divisions from fifth grade through high school varsity who competed in 46 games at Yosemite High School and Oak Creek Intermediate.
Tulare's TC Elite won the varsity division championship game 57-53 over Fresno's Chaos Elite in one of the tournament's most exciting games.
Fresno's Chaos Elite retuned the favor by beating Tulare's TC Elite for the JV championship.
Other teams participating came from Bakersfield, Oakland, Ventura, Chowchilla, Exeter, Hanford, Porterville and Prather.
Yosemite's sixth grade team, coached by Jane Fries, played four games during the tournament and lost to the Ventura Nets and Middletown Ice during Sunday's playoff round.
The Badgers' eighth grade team also struggled, but received praise for their team's improved performance by assistant coach Patricia O'Neill, a 2007 Yosemite graduate and member of the Badger's four-time CIF championship basketball team. O'Neill assisted fellow coaches Sharon Meade and Ron Johnson as their team competed with teams from Oakland and Ventura.
Former Badger basketball player Brianna Smith joined O'Neill in coaching the Badgers' JV and varsity teams. The Badgers were successful in beating the Chowchilla Rush in a JV game and the East Bay Hawks in a varsity game.
Rick Slayton, president of YYBA was pleased with the turn-out and thanked all the sponsors and local businesses for their support.
"Many of the teams travel great distances to participate in our tournament and they all tell me how much fun their players and parents have while visiting our mountain communities and businesses," Slayton said.
Slayton also praised Yosemite's coaches and volunteers who helped with the tournament.
"We simply could not host a quality tournament of this size without lots and lots of help," Slayton said. "Our coaches, players, parents and supporters all pitch-in and do everything from keeping score to helping out in the snack bar. I am especially grateful for all the help provided by Yosemite High coaches Gary Blate and Steve Lopez and for the outstanding support we receive from all of our school officials at YHS and OCI."
Jeff Nichols, co-director for the tournament, handed out trophies during the championship rounds on Sunday and was equally pleased with the turn-out.
"It has been a lot of fun over the past 12 years getting to know all of the coaches that participate and watching their players grow and mature from year-to-year," Nichols said.
He couldn't help but smile as he talked about 3-foot-11, 55 pound Cierra Marienthal from the Ventura Nets who won the "most valuable player" award on her fourth grade team that played in the fifth grade division.
"Cierra is only a third grader and is easily one of the smallest players in the tournament, but plays with fearless determination. She was a joy to watch," Nichols said.
The team's coach, Charlie Feyh, gave each of his players a basketball charm/necklace supplied by Dwayne Turpin of Sportmom in Oakhurst. Turpin has supported the Spring Fling Tournament all 12 years and prints custom t-shirts and sportswear designed specifically for the tournament.
The Badger's youth basketball teams have a busy schedule as they complete next weekend in another AAU tournament hosted at the College of Sequoia's in Visalia, followed by a tournament at Sierra High School in Tollhouse. Coach Lopez has additional spring and summer tournaments scheduled for his eighth grade boys team.
Details: Rick Slayton, (559) 906-7352, Jeff Nichols, (559) 760-0931, Steve Lopez, (559) 760-3771.