The Yosemite Youth Basketball Association (YYBA) hosted its 13th Annual Yosemite Spring Fling girls basketball tournament this past weekend at Yosemite High School and Oak Creek Intermediate.
Twenty-two teams competed in a total of 35 games played in four age divisions (fifth grade through high school varsity) during the two day tournament sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
Yosemite's sixth grade team, coached by YHS senior Sierra Dominici and James Andersen, took home the second place trophy in its division. Andersen is a Yosemite alum and Mountain Area landscaping contractor. Andersen and Dominici selected point guard Lilly Graffigna as their team's MVP for the tournament.
Dominici was excited about her team's performance.
"I'm so happy for them ... they played their hearts out and are such an inspiration for me," Dominici said.
Dominici plans to continue coaching her young Badger team as she attends Fresno City College in the fall. Dominici was named North Sequoia League's MVP for her basketball achievements this past season and plans to continue her basketball career at Fresno City with coach Brian Tessler.
The Badger's seventh grade team finished sixth after losing a hard-fought game with mountain rival Sierra during Sunday's championship rounds. With the score tied at 10, Sierra dominated the second half and won the game 31-12. In spite of their loss, the Badgers received praise for their efforts from coaches Bernie McGoldrick and Stan Lawrence, who selected Linnea Leinau as their team's MVP for the tournament.
YHS 2006 graduate and former Badger basketball star Ashley Stearns-Lassos coached the Badgers' varsity team. Although the Badgers were successful in beating the Bakersfield Heat in the varsity division on Saturday, the Badgers found themselves in a possible three-way tie for first place after beating the Middletown Ice from Northern California during the championship rounds on Sunday.
The Badgers never trailed Middletown as YHS sophomore Allie Stearns led her team in scoring with 11 points in a 43-36 victory. Stearns was awarded MVP honors for her efforts. Afterward, Stearns and her Badger teammates awarded Coach Stearns-Lassos a special MVP trophy to recognize her coaching efforts.
"It's very rewarding to watch Ashley now coach her younger sister Allie," said Spring Fling volunteer Ursa Stearn. "I couldn't be prouder of them both."
The winner of the varsity division was yet to be decided on Sunday as the Bakersfield Heat and the CenCal Heat took the court at 2:50 p.m. in the final championship game.
Excitement filled the air as Yosemite fans and players anxiously watched the final varsity game. The Badger's would win first-place if Bakersfield won, or second-place if CenCal won. Needless to say, many Badger fans were rooting for Bakersfield to pull off an upset. Ultimately, however, CenCal out-scored Bakersfield and cruised to a first place victory with a 39-24 victory. The Badger's win/loss record earned them a second-place trophy and individual medals for each player.
Rick Slayton, president of YYBA was pleased with the turn-out and was quick to thank all the sponsors and local businesses for their generous support of the tournament which brings teams to Oakhurst from throughout California, utilizing area hotels and restaurants while they are here.
"Many teams travel great distances to participate in our tournament and they all tell me how much fun they have while visiting our Mountain Area and businesses."
Slayton also praised Yosemite coaches and volunteers who helped with the tournament.
"We simply could not do it without them," Slayton said. "Our coaches, players, parents and supporters all pitch-in and help wherever needed. I am especially grateful for the outstanding support we receive from our schools and sponsors."
"It has been a lot of fun watching our players grow and mature over the years," said Jeff Nichols, co-director of the tournament.
After seeing the talent on some of the younger Badger teams, Nichols couldn't help but smile as he talked about the bright future those teams and Yosemite High will have.
Nichols and Slayton both praised Dwayne Turpin of Sportmom in Oakhurst for supporting the Spring Fling Tournament the past 13 years.
"Dwayne is always dependable and has helped make our tournaments more memorable by designing and printing custom T-shirts at all of our events," said Slayton.
The Badger's youth basketball teams have a busy schedule in April and May as they will be competing in AAU tournaments at College of Sequoias in Visalia, followed by tournaments in Clovis and at Sierra High School in Tollhouse.
Details: Rick Slayton, (559) 906-7352, Jeff Nichols, (559) 760-0931.