In recent years, the Heritage boys’ basketball team has known nothing but success at the McKinleyville Rotary Tip-Off.
This year was no different. The Patriots posted a perfect 3-0 record to win the tournament for a sixth-straight year.
The Patriots got the tournament going with a 70-51 win over San Francisco’s Lincoln High School. They followed that up with a dominant 81-37 win over Yuba City’s River Valley and closed with a 78-69 win over the host, McKinleyville, in the final.
“On the defensive side, we executed our game plan,” coach Carly Perales said. “The guys really started to understand how the team defensive system would work. On the offensive side, it was just a matter of playing good team basketball. Any time you score 70 plus three games in a row, you’re doing things well on the offensive side.”
Heritage was led by tournament senior guard Ezra Manjon, who was named tournament MVP. He averaged 21 points a game, including a monster 32-point performance in the final.
But Manjon was far from the only standout from the Patriots. Senior guard Saleem Mahdi and junior center Mitch Herode were both named to the all-tournament team. Herode’s performance was particularly notable, as it came with fellow big man, senior Charles Stanford, out with an ankle injury.
“He really had to step up in the first game without Charles,” Perales said. “Mitch really had to carry the load for our big men down low. Mitch had three really solid games. It was on both offense and defense. He did really well guarding some big guys and anchoring.”
Another notable Heritage performance came from senior guard Joel Webb who had 11 in the final game. The Patriots scored only 14 points in the opening quarter. Seven of those came from Webb whose early strong play helped keep his struggling team afloat until the rest of the players found more offensive rhythm. Stanford and senior guard Carson Borrelli both had big games against River Valley, scoring 16 and 17, respectively.
That game saw Heritage meet and exceed a sizable goal. Entering the game against River Valley, the Patriots’ goal was to hold their opponent in the 40s. As it turned out, that wasn’t ambitious enough.
One particularly significant note about this tournament is that it came after a completely forgettable first game. Heritage lost its opener to Granada, 60-46. But Perales was pleased with how well his team recovered from that game and fixed what went wrong.
“We didn’t play well that night,” the coach said. “We were able to focus on some things in practice. We really saw those things come through in the tournament. The more that we saw those things, the more encouraging it was.”
The Patriots continued to play well after the tournament. In the first game after McKinleyville, Heritage defeated San Ramon Valley 72-60.
Perales, who is in his first year replacing longtime coach, Pat Cruickshank, saw the McKinleyville Tournament as a clear positive for his team – both on and off the court.
“It’s a really good bonding experience,” he said. “To come out with a victory for the tournament really picks up everybody’s spirit. When you’re teaching a new system and see results early, that’ll only help their confidence.”