The Spanish Springs boys basketball team has made a holiday tradition of enjoying the warmer temperatures and sunny skies of southern California over the break. The Cougars will once again compete in the Torrey Pines Classic in San Diego, starting Thursday and running through Monday.
"This is what we've always gone to," Cougars coach Kyle Penney said, alluding to his seven-year tenure at Spanish Springs. "I don't know any better. It's a well-known tournament with great competition. We get to go watch the big boys division and see players like (current NBA stars) Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The kids enjoy that. It's a tournament if we ever get out of, we won't get back in it. So many people want to get in. You won't have another opportunity probably."
Spanish Springs opens the tournament Thursday against Lincoln High of Portland, a Top 5 ranked 6A (largest classification) team in Oregon.
The San Diego tournament brings to an end a challenging preseason schedule for the Cougars (5-4). Spanish Springs has already played in traditionally tough California tournaments in Napa and Chico. When the southern California event ends, Spanish Springs will get an 11-day break before it suits up again on Jan. 10.
"With the way the preseason schedule played out, we have not had a lot of practice. We'll get a week of solid practice when we come back," Penney said. "We've got to get better at making baskets and the little things fundamentally, passing and shooting the ball. If you look at our stats, we don't shoot a high percentage. We have to get shots up (in that week-plus of practice) and get game shots up, get the kids shooting with more confidence."
Across town at Reed, the Raiders boys hoops team will also be up for a holiday trek. Reed is traveling to southern Nevada to compete in Las Vegas High School's winter break tourney. The Raiders have not traditionally made a tournament trip over the break, but they opted for the change this time around.
"Our parents really stepped up. We've got a good group and they've done a lot of fundraising," sixth-year Reed coach Dustin Hall said. "We wanted to take this group on the road and the kids really wanted to get out of town. We'll see some teams we haven't seen and get a different look. We want to challenge this group. We wanted to find a good tournament to play in and see some of the best teams we could. We want to get better and make a push in league."
Reed (5-2) opens the Las Vegas tournament, which runs through Monday, against Lathrop High of Fairbanks, Alaska Thursday night.
Following its pilgrimage to Clark County, Reed will get a week off before returning to the hardwood for a Jan. 7 DI North league contest against Wooster. Like Penney, Hall too is looking forward to an extended stretch of practice time.
"That week will probably be the most important week of our season," Hall said. "It will be a chance to buckle down and get some great practices in. We'll put the rest of our stuff in."
While the Spanish Springs and Reed boys basketball squads are making long trips south, their female counterparts will be doing anything but. Both the Cougars and Raiders will be competing in the Truckee Meadows at McQueen High's Silver State Slam.
The event runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with teams playing single games Thursday and Saturday and two games in the middle on Friday. It is not a true tournament format, as in all four games, teams have predetermined opponents.
Spanish Springs (6-2) opens play against Truckee at 2 p.m. Thursday and then it plays Yerington and Lowry Friday followed by Pacific Grove (Calif.) Saturday.
"I was hoping to play some California schools that like to press so we can work on that and make us be more physical. We need to get in a more physical mode, but we'll see how it goes," first-year Spanish Springs coach Art Cardenas said.
Reed (2-1) tips off its run against McClymonds of Oakland at 5 p.m. Thursday. The Raiders then play California opponents Weston Ranch, of Stockton, and Palo Alto on Friday followed by a Saturday meeting with Castlemont of Oakland.
At Sparks High, neither the SHS boys or girls programs will be competing in tournaments over the next week. Both played last weekend and now get some down time of just practice until they play again Jan 3-4 in DI-A North contests at Lowry and Fernley.
Sparks boys coach Dan Schreiber, whose team is off to an rough start at 1-7, likes the break where it is.
"For us, this situation is good," he said. "It will allow us to look at things. We'll work on things that we're not executing. It's nice that it's during a quiet time. The kids aren't in school. There are no more finals. They can take a deep breath and work on some things. We're going to shoot the ball a lot.
"I do wish we had another game or two sprinkled in there, but ... it's OK we'll have to juggle that. We've got a lot of film we want the kids to watch. Teams know we're competitive, but we have to get over the hump."